If there’s one school that gets particular attention from Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, it’s Alabama.
Newsome is still very much in love with his alma mater, and he’s been known to take a liking to their linebackers – especially when they churn out physical, versatile, well-schooled prospects like they have the past decade or so.
Newsome drafted Alabama defensive end turned outside linebacker Jarret Johnson in 2003. The Ravens general manager also took Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with his first pick in 2012. Then it was inside linebacker C.J. Mosley with the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2014.
This year, Alabama is unleashing a trio of edge defenders on the NFL, and one stood out in front of Newsome and the Ravens at this year’s Senior Bowl.
Ryan Anderson may be somewhat overshadowed by teammates Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams, but he’s just the kind of player the Ravens like, and he could be available in the second or third round.
“I’d love to play for Ozzie,” Anderson said at the Senior Bowl. “I feel like I would go in there and coaches would put me in a good position to succeed on and off the field. I definitely feel like that would be a good fit for me.”
Anderson logged 54 tackles with 17 for loss, eight sacks, two passes defensed, one interception and three forced fumbles last season.
He had his biggest performances in Alabama’s two playoff games, in which he had a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown versus Washington and a sack and forced fumble against Clemson.
Anderson’s stats are actually very similar to the numbers Allen and Williams posted, but he’s not getting the same acclaim because his athleticism doesn’t jump off the tape as much. Anderson wins more with power, technique and relentlessness and is more of a team player than individual standout.
He didn’t become a full-time starter until his senior season and once considered changing programs.
“I played with a lot of guys,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of great players that I played with and it made me better at the end of the day. It pushed me. I had to come out every day and earn my keep.”
When Anderson looks at influences on his career, they often intersect with Ravens.
He played high school football with Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce at Daphne High School in Mobile, Ala. At the time, Pierce played inside linebacker, and the two were good friends. Now Pierce is coming off a breakout rookie season after going undrafted last year.
“We’re very similar; we share the same passion for the game,” Anderson said. “We worked hard in the weight room, we always pushed each other, we won a championship together.”
When Anderson was in high school, the only player he would watch in college football was Upshaw. Anderson got to Alabama two years after Upshaw left, and he worked to model his game after the physical edge defender.
“He’s got a different game, a different level of strength to him. He’s a freak,” Anderson said. “I try to take a lot of stuff after him, but I also want to do some other things too. I play inside a little bit, can drop a little bit and am a little bit better in space.”
Anderson spent his first season playing alongside Mosley, who helped mold him into the kind of worker and community role model he has become.
“He’s a good dude, good leader,” Anderson said. “He’s the same person off the field that he is on the field. Good character. He practices hard. Every rep is 100 percent. That’s where my effort came from, just watching him play.”