Monster movies are allotted 15 minutes of runtime before the first jump scare or creature glimpse is necessary to keep your attention. At Alabama, sophomore linebacker Will Anderson Jr. reveals himself early in games and stays through the credits, ensuring your ticket to the attraction was worth every penny.
Rarely do linebackers leave their fingerprints on the reel as often as Anderson, who produces a month's worth of highlight tape every outing. The college football world is finally noticing his horrifying -- and I say that with the utmost admiration -- presence in games coming down the stretch, which should extend his theatrical run in the Heisman Trophy picture.
Before a more in-depth sneak peek at Anderson, can we stop using the phrase Beamer Ball 2.0? Believe it or not, South Carolina first-year coach Shane Beamer is his building his own brand in the SEC. While he's similar to his father, Virginia Tech legend Frank Beamer, from a philosophical standpoint, direct comparisons are off-base, especially considering the game has changed drastically.
Beamer has a chance to garner darkhorse SEC Coach of the Year buzz with a strong finish after the Gamecocks' win over Florida put them one win away from bowl season. We'll take a cockpit view on what's happening in Columbia, South Carolina, after discussing a player from the SEC finally getting his due nationally.
Godzilla coming to wreck SEC towns near you
Alabama coach Nick Saban stopped short of calling Saturday's performance against LSU disappointing, but it was written all over his face in the brief, on-field interview a few seconds after No. 2 Crimson Tide fans needed Pepto Bismol throughout the second half of a closer-than-expected 20-14 win. While the offense stalled, Anderson went beast mode off the edge, collecting 12 total tackles -- four behind the line of scrimmage -- and 1.5 sacks. The projected first-round pick now leads the conference with 21 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks this season.
Take a breather, Nick. You've got the SEC's most-feared defensive weapon who looks like he was summoned from an island in the South Pacific, and that's more than enough. Now that Anderson's star has brightened to supernova status, his Heisman candidacy takes center stage the rest of the way, especially when you consider the lack of obvious frontrunners through Week 10.
If there's ever been a season to hand a defensive player the bronze statue, this is it, coinciding with the mass-parity narrative lingering since opening weekend. Alabama's one-man wrecking crew shoved off double-teams and chips throughout the game to make impactful plays, making first contact 17 different times from his linebacker spot.
Crimson Tide linebacker Henry To'o To'o was asked Monday about Anderson being the Heisman discussion. Coming from someone who sees the All-American shoo-in take his lunch pail to work daily, To'o To'o gets it: "You guys see it every single Saturday, Will's all over the place, making plays. I think Will should be up there, I really do."
There are other freakish kaijus lurking around the SEC, but Anderson means more to his team's success -- and destruction of opposing offenses -- than any this fall. At one point in the second half, the Tide battled through three consecutive three-and-outs, drawing jeers from the capacity crowd, and finished with only 22 offensive snaps to LSU's 48 after halftime. Players were gassed on Alabama's defense from staying on the field, but not Anderson, whose engine never ran hot.
"Every game is not going to be perfect, as much as we want perfection," Anderson said. "We made some mistakes, but we rallied as a team. We handled our business. It may not have gone the way we wanted to, but the things that did go the right way we had a good outcome."
South Carolina eyes bowl game
Beamer insisted his team had their two best weeks of practice this season coming out of an open date following an embarrassing performance against then-No. 17 Texas A&M, but it's understandable if you didn't believe him.
The Gamecocks, who had managed only six yards through three quarters against the Aggies, were preparing for Florida with third-teamer Jason Brown getting the nod at quarterback. They had shown nothing up front this season to warrant an upset pick as a 20-point underdog.
What ensued for the Gators was anything but predictable however, a four-quarter tail-kicking to the rhythmic tune of 284 yards rushing allowed that ended with Todd Grantham being shown the door as Florida's veteran defensive coordinator.
South Carolina drew blood early against a fighter down on his luck and leaking confidence before dismantling the Gators with a series of first-half haymakers that fueled a 20-point lead at intermission. There's nothing left of the Florida team that won the SEC East last season, only burning embers of a program now in a state of bewilderment with a head coach firmly on the hot seat.
The best way to describe Beamer coming off the field at halftime was giddy, a kid on Christmas morning who had just unwrapped his long-awaited PlayStation 5. His team had come full circle and was finally executing at the highest level on both sides of the football with synergy and precision, similar to how the Gamecocks played in big-game opportunities the last time he was on staff under Steve Spurrier.
"We expected to win this football game like we did. Nobody was shocked at how it went," Beamer said.
South Carolina wasn't supposed to win five games this season, and now it gets three opportunities down the stretch to reach bowl eligibility against Missouri, Auburn or Clemson. For a program with only 23 bowl appearances in its history seeking its first postseason game in three years, this means something.