Alabama Football: Will Anderson Jr. playing for respect

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. was the most dominant college football player in America in 2021.

Anderson Jr. finished the season with 102 tackles and led the nation with 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. He received Heisman hype throughout the year from fans and various media members. However, when the time came to vote, Anderson Jr. was ultimately disrespected.

Alabama Football: Hutchinson Hype?

Will Anderson Jr. was not even named a finalist for the Heisman award and finished behind Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson in the voting. Hutchinson is more of a true defensive lineman, so this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but the two largely played similar roles on their respective defenses.

The general responsibility of each was to set the edge and contain the run, as well as to rush the passer. Their statistics were not even comparable.

While Hutchinson did accumulate an impressive 14 sacks, he still fell well short of Anderson Jr.’s number. Hutchinson’s 62 total tackles were dwarfed by Anderson Jr.’s 102 stops. Additionally, Hutchinson’s 16.5 tackles for a loss were not even half of Anderson Jr.’s total.

The Heisman voting debacle wasn’t just a one-off scenario. Hutchinson was also given the Rotary-Lombardi Award. Contrary to popular belief, the Rotary-Lombardi Award does not just consider linemen, but also includes linebackers. Once again, Will Anderson Jr. was not even named a finalist.

While it seems that this particular award favors older players and rewards career achievement, Anderson Jr. was far more impactful than Hutchinson and the other finalists, and should’ve been considered.

Alabama Football: Another Slight

Perhaps even more disrespectful was the snub of Anderson Jr. in the voting for the Bednarik Award. The Bednarik goes to the best defensive player in the country, and was given to Georgia’s Jordan Davis in 2021.

There are many reasons why Davis won the award. Of course, he is a physical specimen (he ran a sub-4.8 40-yard dash at 6’6” and well over 340 pounds).

He was the biggest personality and most recognizable figure on the best defense in the nation. He provided leadership and other intangible factors to the Georgia football team. His sheer size often freed up teammates to make plays unblocked.

But Jordan Davis was far from the best defensive player in the country. The general consensus is that he wasn’t even the best defensive player on his team.

With Travon Walker going No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL draft, Devonte Wyatt being selected in the first round, and Jalen Carter projected as a first-rounder in 2023, you could make a legitimate argument that Davis wasn’t even the second or third-best player on his own defensive line.

Jordan Davis finished last season with 32 tackles, five tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks. Although Davis is an interior defensive lineman whose impact went far beyond the stat sheet, the vast discrepancy between his numbers and those of Anderson Jr. is eye-popping.

My best guess is that this was another “career achievement” award, or, perhaps more accurately, a team award. Davis was a key cog on a Georgia defense that was so good as a unit that it did not have a true standout. Giving Davis the Bednarik could’ve been seen as a way to honor that defense.

Nonetheless, by definition, the award is supposed to go to the best defensive player in the country. Even the average Georgia fan would probably admit that was Will Anderson Jr.

Alabama Football: Anderson Jr.’s Revenge Tour

Anderson Jr. was not completely snubbed in terms of postseason accolades. He was a unanimous first-team All-American, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and was awarded the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the top defensive player in the nation.

After the season he had, Will Anderson Jr. should’ve had a clean sweep of the postseason defensive awards. Let’s hope he allows this disrespect to fuel his junior season.

Anderson Jr. can bring Alabama football another national championship, and has the opportunity to land his name amongst the all-time greats in the process.

Next. Tide trio named to preseason All-American team. dark

If he can improve on his 2021 campaign even a little, Anderson Jr. will end the year with more trophies than he can carry.