Anders Brings Much To Tide Defense
In 2008 when Alabama opponents had a passing situation, Terrence Cody was called to the sideline. As he trotted to the bench he passed Eryk Anders, a linebacker who came in to rush the quarterback.
"I always had a few words for him," Cody said. "I can't repeat them."
It wasn't Anders's fault, of course. Cody came off the field last year for the same reason he comes off this year. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban has said that when Alabama is in that pass rush mode they call it "Rabbit" and there are no 354-pound rabbits. Cody has claimed to be at 354 since the first day of fall camp and says he's still six pounds away from that magic 348 that will let him stay on the field on second- and third-and-long.
This year, Anders doesn't have to come on the field and replace Cody. Anders, a senior, is already on the field, the starting jack linebacker. Last year the jack was Brandon Fanney, who was dismissed from the team during the summer.
Fanney was 6-4, 260. Anders is 6-2 and has increased his weight from 227 to 235. While that may be small for a jack linebacker, Anders is used to being undersized.
At Smithson Valley High School in San Antonio, Texas, Anders was an all-star defensive lineman.
"I try to play tough and aggressive and not let anyone push me around," Anders said.
His teammates agree. "He brings a lot," Cody said. "He has real, real good pass rushing moves, especially against tackles, because he's so quick."
All-America linebacker Rolando McClain said, "Eryk is a fighter. No matter how big he is, he finds a way to get the job done."
Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "He runs extremely well. He's got very good initial quickness.. He's been in the system now for a while and he knows what's expected of him. Even though he's not a guy big in stature, he plays a little bigger than he is. He has pretty good power, pretty good strength. He holds the point well and plays with leverage. He has speed and pass rush ability, which is important in games like this."
Everyone is pointing to the importance of putting pressure on the quarterback in the game Saban referred to.
Alabama, 3-0 and ranked third in the nation, hosts Arkansas, 1-1, and its celebrated quarterback phenom Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS.
Arkansas is led by 6-7, 238-pound sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett, who passed for a school record 408 yards for a school record five touchdowns against Georgia last week. He has not been intercepted this year.
"They are a pretty potent offense," Anders said. "They threw for over 400 yards and they also have running backs who do well. Their offensive line is definitely the best we will have played against so far. They make it tough to get to the quarterback."
Anders said that Mallett is "no Tyrod Taylor (the mobile Virginia Tech quarterback Bama played against in the season-opener), but with that line and their blocking schemes..."
Anders said the defense worked hard this week to be ready. He said the rush and the coverage men have to work together. "Whatever they bring, our defense has to have an answer," he said. "It shouldn't be about what they do. It should be about what we do."
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