CFP National Championship: Alabama vs Georgia

Monday, January 3, 2022

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Lucas Oil Stadium

Alabama Crimson Tide

Will Anderson Jr.

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Will Anderson Jr.

Q. How much do you think you guys have improved since the Auburn game at the end of the regular season?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: I think we've improved so much. The communication has been good. Paying attention to details has been good. Everybody on the same page has been good. So we just want to keep building off of that and keep rolling to the national championship.

Q. Last time, obviously, you guys had a lot of defensive success, but one of the guys for Georgia who provides some problems was Brock Bowers, their tight end. What do you guys need to do this time around to make sure he doesn't have as much of an effect?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: We haven't really talked yet, but as far as what we experienced last game from him coming to this game he's a tremendous athlete. He can make plays, really long. Very athletic.

So I think the key is just paying attention to his playing style and making sure we do a great job of covering him and making sure he doesn't get too loose. And the game plan we put in we just play our game and just make it as effective as it can be.

Q. Obviously you guys had a lot of success against Georgia last time out. How do you think that affects this game? Do you expect to see them do totally different things? Or do you expect them to try to improve on things they didn't do well? And what about you? Do you approach it exactly the same the second time around?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: You know, that was last game. We have to focus on this game. It's going to be a whole, totally new game, new area, new setting, everything. So we're going to see something different that we probably haven't seen before. We have to be prepared for it.

And we're going to approach this game like we always approach every game -- same mindset, same intensity, same energy. We're not going to try to do anything other than what we already do, just going to go out there and play Alabama football.

Q. How has your team been able to win in such a variety of ways this year? Some weeks you guys are winning high-scoring games with the pass game, other weeks you guys are winning low-scoring, defensive games. How are you able to win in such a variety of ways?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: I think it depends on the game, how the game is going at the time. I think it's our mental energy, I would say, because you know we're always there physically. We're always there giving energy.

But I think it's a mentality we have. I think sometimes it's mentally for us. We know what type of game situations we get in. And as the game goes on, we know how we have to play the game and finish the game. I think it's all about our mental energy and mental standpoint and how we play. I think that's how I'll answer that question.

Q. We saw Khyree Jackson quite a bit in this last game. How do you think he played and how have you seen him progress over the course of the season?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: Since Khyree has got here, he's been very hardworking. He took it day-by-day. I'm so proud of Khyree for stepping up in the big game as he did. He did a tremendous, excellent job. I'm proud of him.

He's such a great teammate to have on our team. He's really been able to help our defense achieve and be where we need to be. And he'll keep building off of it and get better every day. And we appreciate him.

Q. When somebody says it's hard to beat a team twice, what does that mean?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: We don't really listen to all that stuff. We can't pay attention to that stuff. We know the challenge ahead of us. Georgia has a very good football team, very good players, very good coaches.

We just have to be prepared for anything. And no matter the outcome of the game we just have to play, no matter where it's at, we just have to play.

Q. As a team leader, what will you do and what have you been able to figure out to do with your teammates being so young? And beating Georgia just a month ago, I mean really beating them convincingly, what are you able to do to keep them focused and not be so overconfident coming into this ball game?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: I really don't have to do anything. The type of team we have, we've never been that type of team to be cocky or anything like that, or we beat them; we're going to do this again. We're very humble. We know the challenges we have.

We know everything to expect from Georgia. We never want to go out to a game with a big head, you know what I'm saying? Everybody's been level headed. We've been good. Everybody has been humble. Everybody will come to practice ready to practice hard, play hard and pay attention to details, get everybody focused and get ready for this game.

There's no big head, no, none of that. We're humbled and ready to play the game and ready for the challenge, and I think that's where we're at.

Q. When you're being recruited by Alabama, obviously if you're being recruited with a lot of other good players you're going to win. And I know that's appealing. But how much does the idea of surrounding yourself with lots of other good players, even though it might make it a little tougher to play early, how much of that do you weigh in as just like being surrounded by other good players will make me better no matter what the results are here?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: For me, I think that's one of the biggest things why I came to Alabama. Just coming from high school to here I wanted to surround myself by people who had the same mindset as me, same competitive nature as me, same standard and expectation as me no matter the outcome of whether I was playing or not. I knew I would be surrounded by great men, great coaches, great people in the facility.

I think it helps a lot. No matter if you're playing or not, you get a chance to see people compete. If you come here and you don't know how to compete you get to see how to compete and see how to overcome adversity. There's been so much adversity at Alabama for people that (indiscernible) here.

You get to see so much here. And it helps you in life. I think a lot of recruits don't understand that, being in college football you'll have some type of adversity. When you come to Alabama you see all types of adversity. It helps you with real life.

I think that's one of the biggest challenges that I took by coming here, being able to compete, go against the best every day. And it's helped me so far.

Q. You are reaching record-level sacks with Alabama, 17 and a half. You're right behind Derrick Thomas' 18. Have you heard anybody speak about Derrick? Have you watched his film? Or are there players you like to watch to develop your skills?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: I didn't grow up really an Alabama football fan, so I can't really say I knew of anything I knew of Derrick Thomas. I didn't grow up watching football like that. I don't know too much about him.

But just to be mentioned with his name and all the success he's had here, and just to be even talked about with his name is really a blessing. But I really can't dwell on those type of things because we have so much here to do. We have to get a natty. We have to play, practice, everything. It's where my focus has been.

A couple of players I watch are Aaron Donald. I love watching Aaron Donald, the way he uses his hand. He's very violent and athletic and can get through blocks and shed blocks really well. I like watching his game, even though he's more an interior guy. The way he moves and works his hand, I try to copy that with my game.

Q. How much have you been able to see Stetson Bennett in his semifinal on film? And what's your scouting report on how much improvement or the biggest differences that you see in him from when you guys last faced Georgia?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: To me, he's the leader on the offense. He helps them in tremendous ways. He gets them set up. He gets them lined up right. He really takes over on the offensive side.

His ability to move out of the pocket, I think that's one of his biggest and strongest abilities he has. He can extend plays with his arms as well. But we just have to contain him. I think that's the biggest part of his game is his legs and him running all around the field. We just have to contain him in the pocket and make sure he's not running all over the field on us and stuff like that.

Q. I don't know if this started with the Georgia game or maybe some point before that. But has this defense been playing kind of ticked off or a little extra motivated, maybe feeling you weren't getting enough credit or feeling you were overlooked or slighted in some way?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: Most definitely. But I think it all comes back to how, what I was saying earlier in the past few weeks, stuff like that, all the pieces are starting to fall together. Everybody is starting to play to the standard, play to the Alabama standard. Everybody is always focused on what we have to do. I think everybody on defense knows what we have to do.

The intensity at practice has been real and energy has been good. Meetings have been excellent. I think where all the pieces are starting to fall together. I think that's why the defense has been playing the way it has. We talk all the time, we say we have one more game to play, put everything together, get all the pieces lined up right. And I think that's what we've been doing.

Q. When you walked up and you turned around and saw that logo, I can tell it means a little more for you. You were fourth and seven in the Iron Bowl with the season on the line and you stepping up as a leader. How much does it mean to have the logo behind you of the national championship and to wear that sweater with the national championship logo on it?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: It means everything. It's such a blessing for it to be my second year and already going back to another natty. That's what you dream off when you're a little kid. And just to be in this moment and to be in this space with everything that's going on, I'm so blessed and happy. And I can't wait for the opportunity to come. It's really humbling. It's a great experience. It means a lot.

Q. There's a lot of fans, your fans and neutral observers that thought you should have gotten that invite to New York for the Heisman. I wonder, was there any motivation there or if you thought about it? And speaking about, you touched on some of the greats of the past at Alabama. Did any of those recent guys talk to you, some of those great linebackers maybe in the NFL right now?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: To me, the biggest thing, I had conversation with my high school coach. And he was telling me that your body is your engine. And I'm a car. And the only thing you need to get going is that engine. And anything else that comes with it, any accolades, anything else, that just to make you look nice. As long as your engine is going in your car you're fine.

For instance, me getting that Nagurski Trophy, that was just a pair of rims on my car. So I think that's how you approach it. As long as your engine is there, you keep going. Anything else, that's just to make you look nice.

When he broke that down to me and explained that to me, I think that was one of the best things he could ever do. He really opened my eyes to me. It was, like, man, you were right. As long as I've got my engine, that's all I need for my car to keep going. Anything else that comes along with it that makes it look nice. Like, any accolades that come, that makes it look nice.

But as long as you have the engine, in the bigger piece, the bigger picture that we wanted to reach the three goals we set when you come to college -- as long as you have those things, that's all we wanted.

Anything else, yeah, it looks nice, yes. I'm blessed to have it. But as long as you have that engine you'll be all right, you'll keep moving. When he expressed that to me it opened my eyes so much more and I'm so blessed to have him. That was good.

That was my biggest thing going into this game, I really could have focused on it. I had to help my teammates out and we had to get down to business and make sure we was good.

I couldn't worry about anything else, no Heisman or anything like that. None of that stuff motivates me to play any more than I already do. I have my own self-motivation, the only stuff that I have to motivate me to help me play. And I think that's what helps me.

Q. When you start looking at a team's success sometimes, flying under the radar a lot of times can be the trainer on that staff. I wonder what Jeff Allen's impact has been on you guys and the way that you guys have been able to trust him through what I know has been a tough run through COVID and everything else?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: Jeff Allen and the training staff, they do an awesome job with injuries. Anything that goes on with us, they do a tremendous job helping us get right.

There's never any pressure or anything like that. They want to make sure you're good enough to go out there. They want to make sure you're healthy, everything.

My hat's off to Jeff Allen and his staff. We appreciate them. I'm so blessed to have met them, have them in my life. And I'm sure everybody in the facility can say the same thing, all the coaches and players can say the same thing because that's one heck of a staff and they do a great job.

Q. When you look at Coach Golding, what has impressed you the most about him in terms of his growth in the second year of you with Coach Pete? Coach Pete Golding, your second year with him, how have you seen him grow as a defensive coordinator?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: I don't really know too much about coaching, so I can't really say the growth of his coaching ability. But what I can say is that he's done a tremendous job of getting us in the right place and helping us being able to make plays and helping the defense limit people from scoring and helping us get lined up right and stuff like that.

But as far as coaching, I'm not really a coach, so I can't say anything on his growth. But as far as his coaching ability, I respect it and I love him coaching us and he does a great job.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
115864-2-1001 2022-01-03 17:52:00 GMT

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