Alabama’s Will Anderson wreaks more havoc in opposing backfields than any college player in the country. Georgia’s Jordan Davis anchors the best defense in college football.
They may be the best player on the field on Saturday in the Southeast Conference championship game when No. 1 Georgia meets fourth-placed Crimson Tide.
And that’s saying something considering the level of talent in these teams.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has re-emerged as front-runner of the Heisman Trophy, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, after leading the return, four overtime wins over Auburn.
But Anderson and Davis are getting a lot of accolades as well.
“I think it’s cool,” Anderson said. “Especially a lot of defensive people nowadays, you don’t get that much attention. But I think it’s good. It is enhanced. I think it’s a mutual respect, and I think it’s good.”
Anderson is a flamboyant player who leads the country in sacks dealing losses for the Tide and has been an outspoken leader. “He’s done as much for our team as anyone else,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Davis doesn’t stack stats from his position in the middle of the nation’s top defense, but he’s a huge presence on the Bulldogs’ prime defense—and even scored a touchdown.
Whatever the stats, Saban said, the top thing to look at in crime is how hard they make it for detractors.
And Davis, he said, “is really hard to block.”
He and Anderson have one thing in common. Otherwise, Anderson is a former five-star recruit in a glam position. Davis is a space-hugging lineman who only got three stars as a prospect.
Both are finalists in the Bronko Nagerski Trophy and the Bednarik Award, given to the country’s top defensive player.
6 foot-4, 243 lb Anderson The Tide’s most devastating pass rush is since late pro football and College Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. He has 27.5 tackles to lose and 13.5 sacks, beating Mississippi State’s Will Rogers four times in that game.
Anderson is a five-time SEC defensive player this season. He had seven sacks as a freshman, despite not recording one until Game 8.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. “He plays with a lot of passion and ferocity and energy. When I watch him play, he reminds me of (former Alabama linebacker) Ration Evans, before Ration’s ‘backer’ went inside. That’s so much. Explosive, twitchy and tough.
“He attacks people and blocks really really well. He will be an important part of the game in terms of the way he plays and impacts the game.”
The 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis can hardly be judged on statistics alone. His 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for the loss and two sacks hardly tell the story of his impact on the Bulldog’s defence.
“I mean, I think the guy is one of the most influential players in college football,” Saban said.
Davis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run Against Charleston Southern and directed the marching band to a rendition of “Glory, Glory” after the game.
Anderson and Davis are studying anti-crime film, but they can’t help but notice each other occasionally.
The game respects the game.
“He’s a great player. He’s big,” Anderson said. “I think he’s honestly like their unit of defense. It is very difficult for him to move around. Looking at him I think he’s really a great athlete for that size and he’s a really good player.
Says Davis: “He’s going to ruin a game, watching his movie and just watching it. He’s explosive. He’s definitely one of those guys that you have to keep restrained.”
Both will be the focal points of the offense on Saturday. But the defensive standouts will be across the field.
Georgia also has linebacker Nakobe Dean, defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt and defensive back Lewis Caine.
“It’s not a one-man wreck crew,” Saban said. “It’s a really good group of players who play really well together. There are a lot of players who have the ability to play.”
Alabama’s other top defenders include linebacker Henry To’Otto, a Tennessee transfer, and defensive backs Jordan Battle and Josh Jobe.
But defenders on both teams often faced multiple detractors to take advantage of Anderson and Davis.
“You have to focus on the Will,” said To’oTo’o. “Will is a monster, and he’s going to come back and wreak havoc in every single play, no matter how many people are stopping him.”
Davis is capable of the same.
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