Alabama's Anderson a real anomaly

TUSCALOOSA _ It just seems right, and is something that University of Alabama football fans already have a familiarity with, both past and present.

Although he was a bit of a late-bloomer, Ryan Anderson was rated the nations' No. 19 prospect by 247Sports.

Once again, the Crimson Tide will have a defensive player with the name “Anderson” on the back of his jersey, and the ability to burst off the edge, quickly gets past any opposing player(s) in his way and take down the quarterback.

Only this time his first name is Ryan, and with all due respect to Mark, the defensive end who played for Alabama from 2002-05, he needs a better number than 47.

“It's the University of Alabama,” said freshman Ryan Anderson, who hopes to wear No. 7 when the Crimson Tide opens spring practices next Friday “The best defense being played is right here in Tuscaloosa. With that being said, it's gonna be a challenge.”

While Anderson is one of two five-star prospects who enrolled early in January, the other being former Daphne High School teammate T.J. Yeldon, there are already two distinctions regarding the rookie standout.

1) Anderson may have as good of a chance as any of the 26 players added on National Signing Day to play his freshman season.

Even though Alabama has a deep roster at most positions, pass-rushing is still a priority, especially with Jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw moving on to the NFL. After notching 51 tackles this past season including 17 for a loss and 8.5 sacks, the All-American was a finalist for the Lombardi, Butkus and Bednarik awards, and will almost certainly be a first-round draft selection.

In his place and others, Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard are poised to step up in to bigger roles at the outside linebacker spots, but Anderson will try and show coaches that he’s too good keep off the field in the fall, even if it’s just as a pass-rushing specialist.

“I'm getting to learn some of the plays,” Anderson said. “If I knew a little more I could play fast. If I don't know as much as if I came in the summer I'd be a little hesitant in two-a-days, but putting some of that stuff away will help me play faster.”

Ryan Anderson played a big role in Alabama's defense shutting down the Mississippi all-stars .

2) He may be the biggest surprise of the recruiting class.

When Anderson arrived at Daphne he was nothing like the prize prospect he would be become, but an un-lean 5-foot-11, 195-pound kid who looked like he had never seen the inside of a weight room.

Even a couple of years later he wasn’t considered much of recruit, considered by most to be a two-star player at best.

“He kind of came out of nowhere, to be honest,” Daphne assistant coach Mike Vickery recently told 247Sports. “The way he was playing at the end of his junior year, you just didn’t want the season to end.”

When Alabama started recruiting Anderson he only weighed about 230 pounds and was just beginning to tap into his potential. He’s now 6-3, 251, and by the time most other schools figured it out it was too late, having committed to the Crimson Tide on April 16.

As a senior, he stockpiled 105 tackles and 12.5 sacks playing middle linebacker, and more than backed it up with his head-turning performance at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic where Alabama gave up just three first downs and 60 yards on 36 plays.

The No. 19 prospect in the nation according to 247Sports was the toast of recruiting, but he had planned ahead was already counting down the days to the start of his collegiate career.

“It's what I wanted to do,” Anderson said on signing day. “I couldn't help myself by staying in high school right now, or if I graduated and just stayed at home. I'd probably be just training. That's what I'm getting here. I'm getting the best training I can get with (weight-training coach Scott) Cochran and his staff.”

Ryan Anderson has a long way to go to be compared to All-American Courtney Upshaw.

So Alabama has another Anderson, who is no relation to the New England Patriot originally from Tulsa, Okla., but is to one of his former Crimson Tide teammates. Wallace Gilberry (2003-07), now a pass-rush specialist for the Kansas City Chiefs, is a second cousin.

But both Andersons do have the “tweener” label in common, even though Ryan has yet to participate in his first practice on the Capstone. While Mark Anderson made 30 starts for Alabama and tallied 141 career tackles, 13.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries before being a 2006 fifth-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears (159th overall), he’s still on the defensive end side of things.

Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson appears to be more of a linebacker for now, and will concentrate on following Upshaw’s footsteps, although who knows where that may eventually lead. Besides, with more NFL teams switching over to 3-4 schemes the hybrid end/linebacker prospects have never been more in vogue.

So what better place to make a name for himself than at Alabama, even with all the talent that’s come before him and was already on the roster.

“No, that don't scare me at all,” the freshman said. “I'm here now. It's on me. What I do is up to me now.

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