Opinion | Will Anderson Jr. is Alabama’s MVP

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

Over the years, the most valuable player on the Alabama Crimson Tide has been fairly obvious year in and year out. 

In 2009, Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy and led the Crimson Tide to a Bowl Championship Series National Championship win over Texas. 

From 2011 to 2013, quarterback AJ McCarron led the Tide to two more national championships. 

In 2015, running back Derrick Henry lifted the Heisman and ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns in a championship win over the Clemson Tigers. 

In 2016, any of the defensive starters could have claimed the award, with the defense scoring 11 touchdowns in the season. 

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw 43 touchdowns in 2018. 

Last year, Heisman winner DeVonta Smith had 1,862 yards and 24 touchdowns to help lead Alabama to a perfect 13-0 record and the program’s 18th national championship.

But this year, there are a lot of standout players on both sides of the ball. 

Honorable Mentions

Quarterback Bryce Young

The sophomore quarterback has been in the race for the Heisman Trophy all season long. He currently sits as the odds-on favorite at -220. Young was the backup to Mac Jones last season, but the former five-star from Pasadena, California, has thrown for 3,901 yards and 40 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. He is also responsible for leading the Crimson Tide on a 97-yard, game-tying drive at Auburn last week.

Wide receiver Jameson Williams

Williams transferred to Tuscaloosa this season from Ohio State and made an instant impact. Williams leads the Crimson Tide with 1,261 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Williams’ moment of the year came in September when he scored three total touchdowns, including two kickoff returns in Alabama’s 63-14 victory over Southern Miss.

Wide receiver John Metchie III

Metchie burst onto the scene last season, but has improved even more this season. Metchie has a team-high 90 receptions. He has also recorded seven touchdown receptions. Metchie caught the game-winning two-point conversion in Auburn last weekend.

Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis

Mathis has been not only the man in the middle of the defensive line, but also the spark plug for the Crimson Tide. He is often seen dancing or firing up his teammates on the sideline, and his play on the field has been just as impressive. Mathis has 44 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He also has a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Safety Jordan Battle

Last season in the National Championship, Battle was ejected for targeting. He was seen crying after having to exit the game in his hometown of Miami, Florida. This season, he has emerged as the anchor in the secondary for the Crimson Tide. Battle has tallied 68 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions. Battle’s moment of the season came in the first quarter of the Mississippi State game, when he jumped a route and returned it 40 yards to put Alabama up 14-3 early.

Running back Brian Robinson Jr.

The last honorable mention is a hometown hero from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Since joining Alabama from Hillcrest High School in 2017, Robinson has waited patiently for his turn. From 2017 to 2020, he never recorded a 500-yard season. But in 2021, he has been the lead back for the Crimson Tide. On 207 carries, Robinson has 1,016 yards on almost 5 yards per carry. He also has 16 total touchdowns.

The Verdict

Even with all the aforementioned names, there is one that stands out. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has been the backbone of the Crimson Tide all season long, putting together performances that have saved games.

It’s rare that defensive players are mentioned for the Heisman trophy, but he should be in that talk. Anderson has compiled 14.5 sacks, which is first in the country. He also has 86 tackles. Anderson has a whopping 30.5 tackles for loss, which also leads the country. The next best is 22. 

These plays have come in some of Alabama’s biggest games. It seemed that every time Alabama needed a defensive stop, Anderson would have a quarterback hurry or tackle for loss to stop a drive. If not for Anderson, Alabama might not have the 11-1 record that it does.

His most important moment of 2021 may have come when he wasn’t even on the field. Last week at Auburn, trailing 10-3 with just over a minute on the clock, Alabama needed to drive the ball 97 yards to keep its season alive. Anderson was in the huddle amping up his quarterback. He was seen beating on Young’s chest and giving him words of encouragement.

With the biggest game of the season coming up this weekend, it hits home for him. Anderson grew up a Georgia Bulldogs fan, but this weekend the Hampton, Georgia, native will look to take down his childhood team for a chance to play in the College Football Playoff. 

Kickoff between Alabama and Georgia is Saturday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. CT on CBS.

Questions? Email the Sports desk at sports@cw.ua.edu or the Opinions desk at letters@cw.ua.edu.