Back in August, the Cup was not the only media source (legitimate or otherwise) that noted the lack of experience in Alabama's linebacking corp and credited it as a lack of depth. Especially for a fellow who employs regular 3-4 looks, having only 2 linebackers with any notable experience seemed, at the time, to be a problem.
If inexperience at linebacker is a problem for the Tide, it certainly has not yet shown itself in the win-loss column. Or in statistics. Alabama not just leads the SEC, it demolishes its conference brethren, allowing just 64.4 rushing yards per game, compared to #2 Florida's 92.8 yards and the #4 Rebels' 114.2 yards.
Even before the season started, Alabama looked to rely upon two studs Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower. Hightower is lost for the season, now, and, while that is still good news for opposing offense, the Tide have mitigated his loss with the emergence of a tackler who was not touted as a starter, but has certainly amassed some impressive credentials thus far.
Who is this guy?
This guy is Eryk Anders. And he is a senior. And we are not the only ones who have just now noticed him. The AP released a piece yesterday detailing his unexpected rise to starter status. How unexpected? Coming out of high school in 2004, Anders got a lousy one star from Scout. With a reputation like that, most folks would be surprised if he could win a starting job at UAB, much less Alabama.
Anders has rewarded Nick Saban's confidence in him by recording 22 total tackles (good enough for 4th on the team) and, more importantly, 5.5 stops for loss and an interception. His stats are on roughly the same pace that Hightower was recording before he went down in the Arkansas game. And, don't look now, but those 5.5 tackles for loss are more than anyone playing for Ole Miss and rank 4th overall in the SEC.
The less promising news is that Anders spent most of his time before Hightower's injury at "Jack" linebacker, a position Saban uses frequently for pass rush. Now, according to the Montgomery Advertiser, Anders has been moved to the other side of the field for run block support. All the shuffling at linebacker may explain Kentucky's early success running the ball against the Tide.
Anders has stepped up his game to fill in hollow places for the Tide defense. One gets the feeling that these still-green linebackers were tested by Kentucky, a fact that may bode well for Ole Miss. One thing is for sure, if the changes at linebacker do not negatively impact the contributions of Eryk Anders, he will not long remain in SEC unknown.