Will Anderson wins award for nation's top defender of 2021 season
While Michigan defender Aidan Hutchinson is a finalist, Alabama’s Will Anderson just won an award for the top defensive player in the nation, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) announced Monday night. Anderson has been named as the recipient of the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy by the FWAA.
Anderson is only the second player at Alabama to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, joining defensive end Jonathan Allen in 2016. The Crimson Tide (12-1) have had Bronko Nagurski finalists in nine of the last 11 seasons, most recently nose guard Quinnen Williams in 2018.
The FWAA All-America Committee made the selection of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner as part of the 2021 FWAA All-America Team, which will be released on Friday. The official presentation of the trophy was made tonight at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet presented by LendingTree at the Charlotte Convention Center.
The 6-4, 243-pound sophomore from Hampton, Ga., is the primary cog in an Alabama defense that is fourth nationally in rushing defense, giving up 82.9 yards per game. Anderson is versatile in “affecting the quarterback,” a non-statistical term but a favorite of head coach Nick Saban when addressing the media. A force in the backfield, he leads the nation in sacks (15.5) and tackles for loss (32.5) and added a sack and two TFL’s in this past Saturday’s 41-24 win over previously top-ranked Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Anderson has had at least one sack in 10 of 13 games and his 92 tackles (53 solo) are second on the team and include and at least one TFL in 12 of 13 games. He has been credited by the Alabama coaching staff with a team-high 38 quarterback pressures this season.
To put his season in finer perspective, Anderson was the 2020 FWAA National Freshman Player of the Year following a stellar season a year ago. But this year’s totals have boosted him to be on pace to reach record territory. Only one player at Alabama – College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas (1985-88) – has averaged more sacks and TFL numbers in his career. Thomas finished his Alabama career averaging 1.06 sacks per game (52 in 49 career games). Anderson, with 22.5 in 26 games, is currently at 0.87 sacks per game with at least one more to play in the College Football Playoff this season. But Anderson leads Thomas’ career TFL numbers currently averaging 1.65 per game (43 in 26 games) to Thomas’ 1.39 (or 68 in 49 games).
Anderson, with 3.5 more sacks, can tie Thomas for the No. 2 spot for single-season sacks (18) in the Alabama record book. His 32.5 TFL’s are already No. 2 behind Thomas’ 39 from the 1988 season.
Anderson was the Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week on Oct. 16 following a four-sack game at Mississippi State, the most in a single game since Thomas did it in 1988. He earned the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week honor five times in 12 weeks and was named one of the Crimson Tide’s permanent captains and one of two defensive players of the year at its team banquet Sunday.
Anderson was selected from among two other finalists that also included Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis and Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.