Even back then, his first step was impressionable, and after trying both positions, he ended up an end.
End Mark Anderson had arthroscopic knee surgery during the last week of July. On Tuesday, Anderson 6-4, 260 pounds) was back in action in the Crimson Tide's final scrimmage of fall camp with one sack in a limited number of plays. He hadn't lost his step.
"It felt pretty good," Anderson said. "It's not swelling. There might be a little pain after practice every once in a while but a little ice knocks that out. I'm back to about 90 percent."
Anderson plays on the right side, and his absence didn't slow down starting left end Wallace Gilberry, who dominated last Saturday's scrimmage and had two sacks and hurry on Tuesday.
But having Gilberry and Anderson at either end full time should benefit both of the pass-rushing specialists. Last year Gilberry was used more as a pass rushing specialist, and he totaled a team-leading six sacks. Anderson was an every down player, and while he only had 1.5 sacks, he led the defense with eight quarterback hurries (Gilberry was second with seven hurries).
"We've always got that competition going," Anderson said. "We're frat brothers off the field and on the field we're good buddies. We've got a competition against each other to make more plays than the next guy. That's going to help the team out because when we're both working hard we can't be stopped."
Anderson got extra attention last year from pass protectors, since he was playing opposite Todd Bates, who was the leading tackler on the defensive line (48) last year and considered more of a run-stopper even though he had 5.5 sacks.
"I don't know how offenses are going to scout against us," Anderson said. "We're both two good pass rushers. (Gilberry) had the sacks last year; I had the pressures."
Gilberry has learned a lot from Anderson. Anderson has among the quickest first steps of any defensive lineman will have, but he has more than that in his repertoire.
"They call me the freak but he's really a freak," Gilberry said. "He has so many pass rush moves, there are times when he's using maybe five in one rush. Coming in here I was a freshman and all I had was a speed rush. Just watching Mark, borrowing some moves from him - I wouldn't say stealing - borrowing some moves from him helped me improve my pass rushing and put me on the same level as he is."
"If they double-team me that's going to leave him open to make plays. If they double team him, that's going to leave me open to make plays," Gilberry said. "We're just hoping for the best. However teams decide to scheme our defense, so be it, but me and Mark are going to make a lot of plays this year."
If there's a question about this potentially unstoppable duo, it is whether they can hold up against the run. They say that won't be a problem.
That's the main focus Coach Randolph brings to us, not just being third and fourth down defensive ends, but on all downs: one-two-three-four. We got our strength where it needs to be and got our weight up so we can stand in there and hold it with the 300 pound offensive linemen.
"You can come off on first and ten and pass rush, but you just run up the field and it's probably going to be a draw or quick game," Gilberry said. "There's a lot of things that go on before the play, but we always keep our eye on the down and distance marker and it gets us know what to expect and what move we like to use on the particular play."