Will Anderson, Jr. is on every watch list for awards that honor college football defensive players. The University of Alabama standout outside linebacker is considered one of the favorites for an award that has only honored a defensive player as its winner once in 86 years of existence.
Pick an All-American or All-Southeastern Conference team, and his name is there. Thumb through NFL draft projections, and he's at the top.
He's earned all the accolades. However, don't expect Anderson, who many consider to be the country's best player, to spend any time worrying about those things.
"For me, I have to come to work every day like my job is on the line," Anderson said. "I think that's what keeps me going. No matter what, somebody is always coming for what I got. It's easy for me to navigate all those things because I have to come to work every day and work hard to keep what I have. I think that's one of the easiest ways to block out the noise and whatever else is out there."
For the record, his job is not on the line. That approach, though, is why he's proven to be a special player.
On Saturday, Anderson begins his third season in Tuscaloosa. His two-year numbers include 153 tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss and 24.5 sacks. He led the nation last year in sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (31).
The first team trying to slow him down is Utah State, which comes to Bryant-Denny on Saturday.
Utah State has already played once this season, coming back from a two-touchdown deficit in the first quarter to beat UConn, 31-20. Utah State allowed just one sack and three tackles for loss in the victory. Utah State's tackles are graduate Alfred Edwards (6-foot-7, 325 pounds) on the left side and Jacob South (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) on the right side.
"They are a fast team. They like to do tempo a little bit," Anderson said. "They have a really great offensive line. They're big up front. Their running back is a shifty guy. He likes to hit the ball downhill. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
Anderson detailed what he hoped to see from the Crimson Tide defense.
"What I want to see from the defense is what we've been preaching all offseason, what we've been doing all offseason, just playing fast, playing physical and building our team chemistry," Anderson said. "Mostly just paying attention to the little details to cut down on the mental errors."
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