Anderson gives defensive end a try

In a departure from normal spring procedures, the first two weeks of practice saw no position moves after the first day. <br><br>But Monday's session featured a new face at defensive end, as Mark Anderson will work with the defensive line for the final two weeks of spring drills.

"I'm going to be getting reps at both linebacker and defensive end," Anderson told following Monday's practice. "The coaches want to see which position I'm better at. Then they'll work me at that position."

Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines talked about the move. "We'll finish the spring this way. Mark spent two weeks at linebacker, which gave me a pretty good feel for what he do there. We'll give him two weeks at defensive end and see."

An excellent all-around athlete, Mark Anderson will work at defensive end the final two weeks of spring practice.

That's welcome news for Defensive Ends Coach Paul Randolph, who has had his eye on Anderson since the start of spring. "Coach Paul has been after me for three or four days to give him a shot at defensive end," Kines related. "He visited with Mark, and Mark said ‘Yeah Coach, if I can get on the field quicker there.'

"He's got the body frame for the position, so Coach Randolph may be right."

A tall, relatively slender athlete, Anderson also excelled at basketball in high school. He runs very well and frankly has the skills to play either outside linebacker or defensive end.

Is he just too talented for only one position? "I don't know about that," Anderson replied laughing, "but I can do a lot of different things to help the team out. I played defensive end in high school, so I've got experience at the position. It'll be like going home, back to where I started from."

Anderson actually played both ways for Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School, starting at tight end and defensive end. He garnered 104 tackles and nine quarterback sacks his senior season. On offense he had nine receptions, three of which went for touchdowns.

Since arriving at The Capstone Anderson has worked exclusively on defense, spending his redshirt season on the line and last year at Rover (weakside linebacker). At this point his only preference is which position will get him on the field the quickest. "The coaches just told me that whichever position I do better at they'll work with me right there," Anderson said. "Right now I just want to get on the field and play. Just help the team out any way I can."

Since arriving on campus Anderson has added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame. But he'll need to bulk up even more if he stays at defensive end.

"We're going to give it a look," Kines said. "During spring it doesn't ‘cost' anything, so we'll give it a look and see if we can get Mark on the field a little quicker. The best thing about it is he's very willing to do it. He just wants to get on the field."

Standing 6-6, Anderson has excellent height for a defensive end, and he's also a hard worker in the weight room. But weighing only 230 pounds he'll need to bulk up more to become an every-down defensive lineman. "I'm tall enough for defensive end, but I'm still trying to get bigger," Anderson acknowledged. "I want to get to about 240 pounds by next fall. That way I could dominate at both positions."

Last season playing Rover Anderson participated in every game, totaling 13 tackles and two quarterback sacks for the Tide defense. He also forced two fumbles and had a crucial fumble recovery versus Georgia.

He doesn't see a problem with the position change. "I was able to rush the quarterback from linebacker, too," Anderson said. "The only real difference is I'm playing with my hand on the ground. When you blitz from linebacker, you just go. At D-Line you start with your hand on the ground and then go from there."

The Tide will be talented at defensive end next season, but depth is a concern. Starters Antwan Odom and Nautyn McKay-Loescher have both missed extensive time this spring due to injuries and illness. Of the principal backups only Todd Bates has significant playing experience.

"That's one reason why the coaches are working me (at defensive end)," Anderson said. "I can pass rush pretty good, and I'll help with depth."

Anderson (left) and middle linebacker Freddie Roach talk at this year's Night of Champions.

Of course taking a narrow view Coach Randolph's gain is Kine's loss. Anderson's presence makes an already talented linebacking corps even deeper. But don't expect any staff meeting fights over Anderson's services.

"No arm wrestling matches--no," Kines said laughing. "I think it's a smart move. As a defensive staff we knew somebody would have to move, and I was glad it came from the defense. I think it'll be a good move."

EDITOR'S NOTE: With Anderson working at defensive end, redshirt freshman Juwan Garth moves up to second string weakside linebacker behind senior starter Brooks Daniels.

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