Eryk Anders Doing Well In His Role

"Go Dog Go," by P.D.Eastman is a delightful children's book. I thought about it recently while talking to a couple of Alabama football players. A subplot of the book has two dogs in a recurring situation, random meeting. One, a male wearing a silly hat, asks, "Do you like my hat?" I won't spoil the ending for you, but time after time the female says, "I do not like that hat," and moves on.

Eryk Anders is one of the best stories of Alabama football this year. He has a special role, what Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban calls "rabbit rusher," going in on passing downs and giving chase to the opposing quarterback.

A reporter asked Anders what it was like to play with 6-5, 365-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody.

"I don't know," Anders said. "When I go in, he comes out."

Cody said that as he goes off and Anders comes on, Cody has something to say to Anders. The suspicion is that it is not "Do you like my hat?"

"I'll say something to him and he'll say something back to me," Cody said. "I've asked the coaches to let me stay in. I think I can be a help on passing downs, pushing the pocket back into the quarterback."

But Cody acknowledges that Anders "hustles and has been a help" to the defense.

Anders is a 6-2, 225-pound junior linebacker from San Antonio, Texas. He was a defensive tackle in high school. Prior to this season he had played in 18 games, all on special teams, and made eight tackles.

"He's a linebacker who plays like a defensive end," Saban said. "He's got some speed and he plays hard. He's making some plays for us."

Anders has been in on 14 tackles in the first half of this season. He has combined to make one sack. He leads the team in quarterback hurries with four.

Anders said his position is "buck." He said he is similar to the jack linebacker, the position played on an every down basis by Brandon Fanney. The buck plays on passing downs—those downs such as third and long when it is reasonable to expect the opponent to pass. Anders said he plays as a defensive lineman when Bama is in a four-man front and stands up linebacker style when the Tide is in an even man front. He can rush from the outside or up the middle.

"They have a great scheme for me," Anders said. "It's not just me. Coach Thompson (Lance Thompson, who coaches outside linebackers) has an array of ‘games' for the us. And the other three linemen—Lorenzo (Washington), Bobby (Greenwood) and Brandon (Fanney) all do a great job of rushing."

Throughout his career, Anders has relied more on speed and quickness than on size. "If you see me trying to bull rush an offensive lineman, you know I've made a mistake," he said. "I'm giving up 100 pounds if I try that."

Anders said he "made a couple of sacks in the spring game. I knew if I kept that up I'd have a role. Then I had good scrimmages in fall camp." And he said he studied the playbook hard.

He said playing on special teams was good experience for getting used to the speed of the college game.

Anders almost didn't make it to Alabama. And there were times he considered leaving. His high school coach sent tapes to former Alabama Assistant Coach Bob Connelly. Connelly talked to Anders, but Alabama didn't have an available scholarship. When a Bama signee failed to gain academic eligibility, though, Alabama called. It was two weeks before the start of fall camp and Anders had been about to accept an offer from Ole Miss.

He admits that he was discouraged at times and thought about quitting Alabama, and credits "family and God" for convincing him to stick it out.

Although Anders said, "I come in on third down and rush the passer," he said "I don't consider myself to be a specialist. I have a role. I try to do it the best I can."

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