Anderson adjusting to new role on defense

Originally signed as a defensive end by Alabama in 2001, Mark Anderson earned a reputation for talent and aggressiveness during last year's redshirt season. But it's his recent move to Rover that has fans (and coaches) taking notice. <br><br>Linebackers Coach Carl Torbush explained, "I'm real excited about Mark. He's got all the tools that I'm looking for in a linebacker.

"He's got excellent size, he's got a good motor. He's smart and very physical. He's not afraid to mix it up."

From his excellent work with the scout team last season, practice observers knew he could play. The only question was where? "Right now he's working at Rover, because of the things we ask our Rovers to do coming off the edge," Torbush said. "But there's no doubt he can play either strongside (linebacker) or Rover."

Anderson is making good use of spring practice reps, learning a new position on defense.

Anderson frankly expected to contribute at either defensive end or maybe even tight end for the Tide. But Alabama was facing a numbers crunch at the crucial linebacker position, and Anderson was receptive when Torbush approached him about the move. "When he first told me about it I wanted the challenge," Anderson said. "I thought I could do it. I'm a little light for the D-Line, but I'm just about the right size for linebacker."

"I'm a little taller than the average (linebacker)," Anderson continued. "But that's OK. I'm 6-4 ½ to 6-5. I'm right at 225 pounds now, which is close to ideal."

Of course it was his tall, angular frame that gave Torbush the idea of moving him to Rover. 225 is almost certainly too light for defensive end, but for a Rover it's just right. "He's right where I'd like for him to be," Torbush said. "I'm excited about having him (at linebacker). He's definitely---and I wouldn't say this unless I meant it---I think he's definitely got the tools to be a really fine linebacker."

"I just stay in the weight room and try to get as big as possible," Anderson added. "And I'm right at linebacker size right now."

A two-way player for Tulsa, Oklahoma's Booker T. Washington High School, Anderson made 104 tackles and nine quarterbacks sacks his senior season at defensive end. He also added nine pass receptions and three TD catches at tight end. In one game on defense he had two blocked punts, three sacks and 20 tackles. He was a team captain and was an All-Metro and Big-12 Prep pick.

Mark also played basketball in high school. Which is noteworthy, because Torbush has previously made clear his preference for athletes with varied backgrounds on the high school level.

Really too light for defensive end, Anderson is practically ideal size for a Rover.

Currently Anderson is working hard at second-string Rover to pick up his new assignments. "Linebacker is a really tough position, but I'm starting to learn it right now," he said. "The coverages are the hardest thing. Learning the coverages is what I'm working on.

"I'm used to being on the line and just going to get the quarterback. Now I've got to watch the pass and everything."

Torbush explained, "The position is kind of foreign to him right now, but he's figuring things out. With his aggressiveness and physical play, I think he's got a great future ahead of him. I think he has a chance to be a really, really solid linebacker.

One aspect of a Rover's responsibilities is blitzing the quarterback around the offensive tackle--obviously an element of Anderson's game where he can excel. "He can do some things off the edge that we really haven't asked him to do yet," Torbush said.

Though obviously gifted athletically, right now Anderson is grateful for the several weeks left of spring practice. He's picking things up quickly, but repetition is always the key to learning any position. "Mark just needs to learn what to do," Torbush said. "But he's getting better every day. I like his physical play, and he's smart, and he wants to play.

"I like everything I see from him right now."

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