Coach Speak: Zaire Anderson

The video tape is the coach's best friend; it never lies. And in the case of Zaire Anderson it tells a tale that most college coaches didn't want to hear based on his size. Anderson doesn't have prototypical size, but the associate Head Coach Darrin Chiaverini at Riverside (Calif.) College points out that another very good linebacker in Lincoln isn't prototypical either.

The recruiting radar for Zaire Anderson was non-existent. Anderson had to let his film tell the story because recruiting analysts weren't beating down his door back in September. Some of that was to be expected, but when a change in position took place it opened up a lot of school's thinking about the linebacker.

Consider Darrin Chiaverini a believer in what Anderson can do on the football field. He's seen him be dominant as a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4 and he's seen him blossom as a middle linebacker in a 4-3. Chiaverini sat down and talked about Zaire Anderson with

BRR: You've played at the division one level, you have played at the NFL level, you have coached at the division one level and now you are the recruiting coordinator at a prominent junior college in California; how does Zaire compare to others you have seen and played against at that level?

Darrin Chiaverini: The great thing about Zaire Anderson is that he is going to be perfect for a 3-4 scheme. He's an attacking style linebacker and he understands football. Zaire has football intelligence.

What the difference is between linebackers is that when you call a blitz there are some guys that can't get to the quarterback. The difference with Zaire is that he knows how to work his way around a guard, work his way around a center and get to the quarterback.

If you have seen him on film, and I know that you have, you can see that he has great speed, he has great instincts, closes as well as anyone in the country and he knows how to play the game. That's what special about him. He's a very good football player.

There are a lot of things that are measured at the division one level like how tall he is, how much does he weigh? What you can't measure is what you see on the tape. He's just a special, special talent.

BRR: When I watched the film what stood out to me the most was how quick he got to spots and beating lineman who were trying to get to the second level to block him. He is unblockable in the box because he beats people to the spot.

Darrin Chiaverini: We say it every day at practice that stuff is open against Zaire and we will run a screen, and we have one of the best offenses in the nation this year, and we will run what we think will work because it's open and then it's not open.

That's what special about this kid. You can game plan and you can scheme to go against the guy, but the bottom line is that nine times out of ten he is going to beat your scheme because of what he can do athletically. He closes and has the will to get there.

Another thing about Zaire is when he does get to the ball carrier he's in a bad mood when he gets there. He's going to hit you. He's going to do whatever it takes when he gets there to make sure you are on the ground and you know who hit you. Some guys get there and make the play, Zaire gets there and he's in a bad mood.

BRR: You mention Anderson specifically as being that prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. There was a transition that he's already made playing in that 3-4 on the outside last year and coming inside to a 4-3 this year. Why does a guy that can do both things so well take so long to get noticed?

Darrin Chiaverini: The problem that Zaire had as far as his last year's film was that he was playing in that 3-4 as a standup end. When teams would evaluate him on film they would ask ‘What is he? Is he a defensive end? Is he a linebacker?'. I have always said he's a linebacker.

Our personnel last year dictated Anderson to be a standup end that could rush and get to the quarterback. This year he is playing more inside as a linebacker and playing some rover trying to get to the ball carrier in a different sense.

People who saw him this year saw him in a different light and they could evaluate him in a different light. He's a dynamic guy as you can tell from his film from last year to this year. You just can't block him, can't block him.

BRR: In my conversations with Zaire he's said over and over again that he's going to Nebraska to play outside linebacker. That he's going to Nebraska to replace #4 (Lavonte David).

Darrin Chiaverini: They are similar. They have similar stature, both are about 6-foot-1 and 215-220 pounds, and they are similar in a sense that they are just guys that go out there and make plays. Is #4 your prototypical type of linebacker? No, not in a sense of size and weight, but when you put in the tape and you see him make plays on Saturday he can flat out play. That is how Zaire is.

When a coach would stop by and ask me who our best defensive player was I would tell them ‘Look, I know that Zaire is not your prototypical outside or inside linebacker, but the tape doesn't lie'. When you turn that tape on it's obvious that he can play.

People get too caught up on if a player is long. Is he 6-foot-3? Is he 6-foot-2? The bottom line is this: can he play or can he not play? I am a big believer in that and that's coming from a former division one receiver and a former professional player. It's about if they can play.

At the end of the day I played with guys like Zaire Anderson at the professional level. Guys like Dat Nguyen and Dexter Coakley who were guys that could just flat out play the game and that's what Zaire does. He's a special, special talent and he's going to be great for Nebraska. He's going to do great at Nebraska.

BRR: A lot of times coaches seem to be looking for that longer player because they already have a player that looks like that or they equate more potential to size.

Darrin Chiaverini: Players need to be evaluated by do they make plays or do they not make plays? I can't stand the word potential. The word potential drives me nuts. He either is or he isn't. What is he? Is he a player or is he not a player?

Darrin Chiaverini played wide receiver for Colorado from 1995-1998 and served as the team captain in his senior year. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Cleveland Browns. He played in Cleveland from 1999-2000, for the Dallas Cowboys in 2001 and for the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.

As a coach, Chiaverini joined the staff at Mount San Antonio College in 2008 as the co-Offensive Coordinator and in 2009 was hired by UCLA as an assistant special teams coach. Chiaverini was hired in January of 2010 as an associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Riverside College.

Bryan Munson has worked with Big Red Report for nine years covering recruiting and football and has covered Nebraska recruiting for 11 years. His work can also be seen in's SuperPrep Magazine.
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