For the second straight season, Alabama football linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has been dubbed the best defensive player in college football. Anderson Jr. was awarded his second consecutive Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday night.
The Terminator entered this season with incredible hype as a generational defensive talent, and yet still had a lot to prove. He enjoyed a historic 2021 campaign, notching 102 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, and 17.5 sacks.
In spite of these all-time numbers, Anderson Jr. was snubbed from being a Heisman Trophy finalist, as well as from winning the Bednarik Award. He entered 2022 seeking to validate his sophomore season, with the understanding that he would be the focal point of every opposing offense’s game plan.
Will Anderson Jr. had some quiet outings in 2022, as he was regularly double-teamed, triple-teamed, or avoided entirely. He was criticized throughout the year by opposing fans and Alabama Football fans alike who had the unrealistic expectation of superhuman performances on a weekly basis.
If one had only followed the 2022 college football season on social media, they may have been led to believe that Anderson Jr. had regressed to become one of the worst players on the field. This could not have been further from the truth. Operating without praise and mostly out of the limelight, he was still quietly the nation’s most impactful defender.
Anderson Jr. has likely played his last game in an Alabama uniform. He finished his junior season with 17.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks. Both figures led the SEC and placed in the top-10 nationally. He was unofficially credited with 60 quarterback pressures to lead all of college football.
Other highlights from his 2022 season include a pick-six on the only interception of his career against UL-Monroe. It was one of just five interceptions and one of two touchdowns by the Alabama defense this season. Anderson Jr. also partially blocked a field goal in Alabama’s early season non-conference game at Texas, a game that the Crimson Tide would ultimately win by a single point.
Over the course of his Alabama football career, Anderson Jr. has notched 204 tackles, 62 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks. Keeping in mind that these statistics have only been officially kept since 2005, his career tackles for loss and sack numbers are both top-10 in college football history and tops among all SEC players.
The Terminator became the first player to repeat as the Nagurski winner since Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald in 1996. He was also named AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, and he will have the opportunity to avenge his Bednarik Award snub on Thursday night. Will Anderson Jr. makes a “down year” look pretty good.