Reserve rover made most of playing debut

It's a coaching mantra--not to mention good advice for back-up players everywhere. Athletes often have to wait for their chance. But when opportunity comes, be prepared to take advantage. <br><br>In the first two games, Mark Anderson was essentially a non-factor. But when he got into the game versus North Texas, the Tide's reserve rover made every snap count.

Competing against North Texas for only nine defensive plays, the converted defensive end turned in two sacks and a forced fumble. "I hadn't gotten that much ‘run' before, so I was just being patient," Anderson explained. "When my chance came, I tried to do good. I made a sack and made a play.

In limited action Saturday, Anderson had two sacks and a forced fumble.

"I had been waiting for that chance for the past few games. I finally got my opportunity. I'm from Oklahoma, so I like to do well against schools from around that way. I'm ready to play now."

Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush hardly disagrees. "If he can tell me he can keep up his pace… He got two sacks in nine plays. If he could promise me he'd get six sacks--if I put him in for 30 plays, then I'd promise he'd get more reps."

In Bama's first two games Anderson followed the normal path for redshirt freshman. Contribute on special teams and work your way into the playing rotation. But his knack for pressuring the QB could prove invaluable as the season unfolds. "I think Coach Torbush likes me to get in there off the edge and get to the quarterback," Anderson said. "I'm used to rushing the passer, coming from the D-Line. I like trying to get to the quarterback."

An offensive (tight end) and defensive star in high school, Anderson was signed to play defense end at Alabama. But his relatively narrow frame and excellent speed caught Torbush's eye, prompting a spring position move to Rover.

Brooks Daniels, the Tide's incumbent starter at the position, takes a great deal of pride in Anderson's progress. "Mark had a good game last Saturday," Daniels said. "When his opportunity came, he went in there and he made plays. He got two sacks--a caused fumble. It doesn't get any better than that.

Converted to rover from defensive end, Anderson is a physical presence rushing the passer.

"Playing the amount of snaps he played, he did very well. I think he'll be a great pass-rush, sack guy. That just shows you the kind of players we have on our second team. They can come up and replace us easily."

Anderson appreciates the help he's received from Daniels. "Brooks is more of an all-around player," Anderson said. "I can do it all, too, but I like rushing (the passer). We both like a lot of physical contact. We're the same that way. Of course he's more experienced than I am."

Torbush says his young pupil reminds him of some of the 240-pound prototype linebackers he sent to the NFL when he coached at North Carolina. "I've said all along that I think Mark has got a chance to be an outstanding football player," Torbush said. "It's really exciting to see the progress that he's made. He still hasn't figured it all out yet.

"But one thing about Mark, when he knows exactly where he is and he knows exactly where he's going, then he's going to cause a train wreck."

Of course every college player dreams of playing in the NFL, but Anderson isn't looking nearly that far ahead. "I'd love to go to ‘The League,' but that's later on. Right now I'm just trying to focus on my assignments. I don't worry about my role (on the team) right now. I'm just out there trying to play. I just want to get the feel of it. Then I'll know my role later on in the season."

Anderson is only just now "figuring it out," according to his position coach.

For now Anderson's role seems clear: attack and disrupt.

Torbush commented, "He did that three times against North Texas. He had the two sacks, and he would have had a fumble recovery if they hadn't been called for an illegal procedure penalty, which nullified the play."

The Tide coaches will be careful not to rush Anderson, pressing him into service before he's ready. But expect his playing time to increase as the season goes along. "He's made a lot of strides," Torbush said. "He's got a lot more confidence in his ability. The more teams we see that don't spread it out all over the ball park, the more you'll see guys like Mark Anderson play. As the year goes along, there's no doubt that he will do well."

"I wasn't nervous," Anderson said of his first significant defensive action last Saturday. "I was just trying to go out there and have fun."


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