TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — They finished first and fifth, which was obviously impressive in any context regarding the voting for the 2021 Heisman Trophy. As we all know, Bryce Young became the first Crimson Tide quarterback to win the award, while linebacker Will Anderson Jr. placed fifth.
It was the second straight year that the Crimson Tide had players finish in those exact spots, but while quarterback quarterback Mac Jones was sandwiched at No. 3 by winner DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris in 2020, they all subsequently moved on to the NFL.
As sophomores heading into third seasons, Young and Anderson did not. With them back in the fold, the Crimson Tide arguably has the best returning players on both offense and defense for 2023.
“I think we are capable of be better than we were last year,” Anderson said. “I think, starting towards the end we started to gel a little bit more but I think we just want to toll that over to the spring. I think that’s one of the biggest things, just keep gelling, keep working together, everybody playing together, everybody playing faster and physical.”
Anderson is one of three returning starters at linebacker, joining senior Henry To’oTo’o, and Dallas Turner. The fourth spot, where Christian Harris used to line up in the interior, will determined over the course of the spring and summer, and fall camp, but senior Jaylen Moody has the inside lane on the role and is trying to hold off an impressive group of talented challengers.
“Oh he brings a whole bunch of energy, motivation,” safety Jordan Battle said. “Moody gets better and better each year. He’s been waiting a long time, and it’s time to respond to the call. Moody’s doing a great job.”
Anderson and Turner head up another strong group at outside linebacker, with Chris Braswell next up in the rotation, and Jeremiah Alexander heading the next wave of freshmen, if you will. Not only was he considered one of the top prospects in the nation this past year, but the hype/hope is that he could become the next Anderson.
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Although he seems pretty unique after leading the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss as a sophomore, when he was also named a team co-captain.
“His work ethic, that’s what stands out to me,” safety Brian Branch said. “He comes in here everyday ready to work. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, he’s just determined, and you can tell that he’s motivated.”
2022 Alabama Crimson Tide Linebackers
OLB Jeremiah Alexander, 2022, SIAA No. 5
OLB Will Anderson Jr., 2020, No. 17*
OLB Chris Braswell, 2020, No. 19*
OLB Dallas Turner, 2021, No. 33
ILB Demouy Kennedy, 2020, No. 39
ILB Henry To’o To’o, 2019 (Tennessee), No. 44
ILB Quandarrius Robinson, 2020, No. 65
ILB Deontae Lawson, Mobile, Ala. (Mobile Christian School), 2021
ILB Jaylen Moody, 2018
OLB Keanu Koht, Vero Beach, Calif., 2021
OLB Ian Jackson, Prattville, Ala., 2021
ILB Kendrick Blackshire, Duncanville, Texas, 2021
No. 35, OLB, 6-2, 250 pounds, freshman
The top-rated player from Alabama and one of the top edge rushers in his recruiting class. The early enrollee was a five-star prospect by Rivals.com, ESPN.com, PrepStar and on the 247Composite. He was the fourth-ranked player on the Rivals250 and the No. 1-ranked weakside defensive end by Rivals. The ESPN300 had him at No. 11 overall, and he was the top-ranked edge rusher and eighth-ranked prospect nationally on the 247Composite. He earned MaxPreps Alabama Football Player of the Year honors in 2021 after totaling 93 tackles, including 29 for loss, to go with 10 sacks and 27 quarterback hurries as a senior at Thompson High School. Signed with the Crimson Tide over Clemson and Georgia among a multitude of offers.
Will Anderson Jr.
No. 31, 6’4″ 243 pounds, junior
Won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player as decided by the Football Writers Association of American. Was a unanimous first team All-American (AFCA, Associated Press, FWAA, The Sporting News, Walter Camp), and also earned first-team honors from CBS Sports, ESPN.com, Pro Football Focus and USA Today.
Anderson was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by both the AP and the conference coaches, along with All-SEC First Team honors from both groups. He led the nation in tackles for loss with 34.5, and with 17.5 sacks. Despite playing an outside linebacker position was credited with 102 total tackles, second most on the Crimson Tide.
He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts against Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU and Auburn, and was selected as one of the Crimson Tide’s permanent team captains for the 2021 season.
2020: Earned the starting job at jack linebacker during the fall, and ended up being selected as the Shaun Alexander-FWAA Freshman of the Year. Anderson picked up Freshman All-America honors from the FWAA, 247Sports and The Athletic, and was also named to the SEC All-Freshman Team by the league coaches. He finished third in the SEC in sacks with seven, while also ranking third in tackles for loss at 10.5, to go with 52 tackles, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.
No. 41, 6’3″ 240 pounds, junior
Played on special teams and as a pass rusher while accumulating 13 total tackles, including one for loss. Also blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown against Mercer.
2020: Did not see playing time for the Crimson Tide.
No. 15, 6’4″ 240 pounds, sophomore
Quickly developed and earned his first career start at Texas A&M. Went on to earn Freshman All-America honors from 247Sports and the FWAA, in addition to the All-SEC Freshman Team by the conference coaches. Turner played in all 15 games with three starts. He notched 30 tackles, including 10 for loss and 8.5 sacks, and had a forced fumble.
No. 37, 6’3″ 220 pounds, junior
Was a special-teams regular and also helped out at running back when the Crimson Tide’s depth was depleted by numerous injuries.
Kennedy made seven tackles during his 15 games of action on coverage units, and also had 16 rushing yards on seven rushes. He was selected as one of the special teams players of the week by the Alabama coaches against Tennessee, New Mexico State, Arkansas and Cincinnati.
2020: Worked on special teams and played in four games.
No. 10, 6’2″ 228 pounds, senior
Won a starting job after transferring in, and ended up earning All-SEC Second Team honors from the conference coaches. To’oTo’o led Alabama in tackles with 113, including 8.5 for loss while also contributing four sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
2019-20: Played in 23 games and made 22 starts during his two-year stint at Tennessee.
As a sophomore in 2020, started all 10 games at weakside linebacker and led the Vols with 76 tackles and 10 tackles for loss, which was tied for fourth in the SEC.
As a freshman in 2019, he started 12 games and recorded 72 tackles, which ranked second among SEC freshmen and fourth among FBS freshmen. To’oTo’o also had five tackles for loss, a half-sack, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. He was named a 2019 Freshman All-American by 247Sports and The Athletic.
No. 34, 6’5″ 224 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Saw his first playing time, and participated in a handful of games. Primarily contributed on special teams.
2020: Did not see playing time for the Crimson Tide.
No. 30, OLB, 6-3, 215 pounds, freshman
The early enrollee is from New Jersey, but also at IMG Academy in Florida. Was a four-star recruit ranked as the No. 23 player nationally in the Top247 while 247Sports ranked him as the third-best edge player in the country and the No. 4 player in Florida. Campbell was the 247Composite’s 78th player nationally, the No. 9 edge and No. 11 recruit in the state, while the ESPN300 had him at No. 120 overall and the No. 11 outside linebacker. Chose Alabama over Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M.
No. 43, ILB, 6-2, 215 pounds, freshman
The early enrollee was rated as a four-star linebacker by all major outlets, and the top-ranked inside linebacker by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com. The former had him as the No. 34 prospect in the nation, and the latter had him at No. 35. The 247Composite had him as the No. 5 inside backer and No. 57 recruit in the nation. Murphy was selected as the 2021 Butkus Award winner for high school. Signed with the Crimson Tide over Florida, LSU, Ohio State and Penn State.
No. 32, 6’2″ 225 pounds, redshirt freshman
Played in four games. Did not record any statistics.
No. 42, 6’2″ 225 pounds, redshirt senior
Was a regular contributor at linebacker and on special teams, playing in all 15 games last season. Totaled 11 tackles to go with his first career interception, against Miami in the season opener. Earned special teams player of the week recognition from coaching staff against Southern Miss and Ole Miss.
Maintained his role on special teams while rotating in at linebacker … totaled 18 tackles, including half a tackle for loss (-2 yards) … also added one forced fumble and a fumble recovery … selected as one of the defensive players of the week by the Alabama coaches for his play at Arkansas. Missouri: Registered two tackles from his linebacker post. Texas A&M: Saw time against the Aggies but did not collect any stats. Ole Miss: Earned playing time in Oxford. Georgia: Worked on special teams against UGA. Tennessee: Saw playing time in Knoxville. Mississippi State: Contributed two tackles on defense against the Bulldogs. Kentucky: Earned minutes on defense and special teams. Auburn: Totaled three tackles in a reserve role at linebacker. LSU: Saw time at linebacker and on special teams in Baton Rouge. Arkansas: Filled in for an injured Christian Harris who was sidelined during the first Razorback drive of the day … put together an impressive performance in relief, tying for the team-high total with seven tackles, including half a tackle for loss (-2 yards) … also responsible for two turnovers, forcing one fumble and recovering another … picked up defensive player of the week accolades for his play in the regular-season finale. Florida: Worked on special teams while rotating in at linebacker in the SEC title game. Notre Dame: Recorded three tackles against the Fighting Irish. Ohio State: Made one tackle on punt coverage in the CFP National Championship Game.
Provided depth in the middle linebacker group, totaling 10 tackles as a sophomore … tied for second on the Tide’s coverage units with five special teams tackles … selected as one of the Alabama coaching staff’s special teams players of the week for his efforts at South Carolina and against Southern Miss. Duke: Totaled two tackles in the season-opening matchup with the Blue Devils. New Mexico State: Recorded a pair of tackles against the Aggies. South Carolina: Set the tone on the Tide’s first kickoff of the afternoon, delivering a huge hit to the Gamecock returner … earned special teams player of the week recognition for his efforts in Columbia. Southern Miss: Named one of the special teams players of the week for a second consecutive game thanks to his team-high two tackles on kickoff coverage … finished his day with three total stops. Ole Miss: Saw time against the Rebels but did not collect any stats. Texas A&M: Worked on special teams in College Station. Tennessee: Saw time on special teams but did not record any stats. Arkansas: Played at linebacker and on kick coverage units against the Hogs. LSU: Earned time on the Tide special teams units. Mississippi State: Recorded one tackle on punt coverage, stopping the State returner for no gain. Western Carolina: Worked at linebacker and on special teams against the Catamounts. Auburn: Recorded one tackle on kickoff coverage, stopping the Tiger returner after a gain of only two yards. Michigan: Worked on special teams against the Wolverines.
Physical linebacker who was a late add for the Crimson Tide out of high school … provided depth at middle linebacker while working on special teams, seeing time in 14 games, missing only the Mississippi State game .
No. 19, 6’4″ 231 pounds, redshirt freshman
Did not get into a game during his first season.
No. 36, 6’1″ 235 pounds, redshirt freshman
Did not get into a game during his first season.
No. 40, 6’2″ 233 pounds, sophomore
Earned a regular role on special teams and played in nine games. Was credited with three tackles on kickoff coverage.
This is the fifth in a position-by-position series on the Crimson Tide this spring.
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Alabama Crimson Tide