Anders Isn't Just A Rabbit Now

He's been a defensive lineman, albeit a small one. He's been a rabbit. Now approaching his final football season for the Crimson Tide, Eryk Anders wants to be a starting linebacker. He may have taken some steps in that direction in last Saturday's scrimmage.

Eryk Anders came to Alabama as an undersized defensive lineman. The late addition to the Bama roster in 2005, he was 6-2 and 220 pounds. He had been an all-state defensive tackle at Smithson Valley High School in San Antonio.

After being redshirted in 2005, he played on special teams as a freshman and sophomore. Last year he was given a new position, a third down pass rush specialist—"rabbit" in Coach Nick Saban's defensive nomenclature.

This year Anders is up to 235 and hoping to be a first team player at the jack linebacker position manned last year by Brandon Fanney. Fanney was dismissed from the team prior to this season. There had been talk of moving Dont'a Hightower, last year's starting weakside linebacker, to jack, but in last week's first scrimmage of fall camp, Hightower was at the same inside spot he had manned last year.

Anders, who was in on 24 tackles and had 2.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries, and two caused fumbles last season, got most of the repetitions at jack linebacker in the scrimmage. He made four tackles, three of them behind the line of scrimmage, and also had four sacks to rank among the defensive leaders in the scrimmage.

"We're getting our technique down, how to pass rush," Anders said following Monday morning practice. "Coach Sal (outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri) and (defensive line) Coach Bo Davis are showing us great technique. Coach Sal is intense in meetings and on the field, all the time. He really takes the time and explains what to do and why to do it and how to do it.

"Coach Sal brings an NFL mentality. He teaches great technique and he makes sure you hustle. If you don't hustle, you hear about it. That's half the battle. That and technique. He teaches technique and explains that's the technique he taught to Julius Peppers (when Sunseri was with the Carolina Panthers).

"Coach Sal always wants more," Anders said. "If I had 12 sacks, he'd want me to get number 13. He tries to get the best out of us."

Although Anders is technically a linebacker, as often as not he is lining up as a defensive end. And he is being taught by Sunseri, who was added to the staff in part because of his ability to teach pass rushing, which he primarily taught to defensive ends in the NFL.

"If somebody asks me what I play, I say ‘Linebacker,' because that's what they tell me I am. And I do drop back in pass coverage sometimes. Our base is a 3-4, but a lot of times the jack moves up to the line like an end."

Cory Reamer, Alabama's senior strongside linebacker, said, "Eryk does really well at his job. He's strong, fast, and smart. He knows what do do and he does it. He's always been good. Think about how small he is, and he played defensive line in high school."

Anders worked with the first unit on defense at jack linebacker in Saturday's scrimmage and said he got most of the reps with the first defense at jack. Dont'a Hightower was at weakside linebacker, the inside position he played last year. Anders said that Courtney Upshaw rotated in at jack with the first unit. He said that freshman Ed Stinson is also working there. "He's 6-4, 260 and as soon as he learned the defense, he'll be up there, too," Anders said.

"I think we are looking pretty good," Anders said of the defense. "The front seven is really doing a pretty good job of stopping the run and the secondary is taking care of the passes. I think we are coming together and meshing really well as a team defense."

Anders explained his success in making sacks in Saturday's scrimmaage. "The first two came off blitzes," he said. "I used good technique. But if no one blocks you, it's pretty easy to get a sack. The third one came late during two minute drills. A lot of people were tired, and I just kept working."

Anders understands why he has been something of an overlooked player. "I didn't play for real much until last year, and only had a couple of sacks," he said.

This year he wants to be more than just a third down pass rush specialist. He has his eye on the prize, the starting job at jack. To that end, he said, "I just try to get better every day. Watch film, learn my keys, and just work hard in practice every day.

"I've got an opportunity and I'm trying to make the best of it. I have to pressure the quarterback, know how all the parts of the defense fit, get in position to make the hits. This is the best camp I've had. I haven't had mental errors. The competition is good and we all focus on getting better every day. The more competition you have, the better you play. There's good competition at every position."

Anders doesn't mind that good, young players are challenging him for his position. "One day I'm going to be gone from here," he explained.

BamaMag Top Stories