If Alabama football coach Nick Saban ever needs a break from delivering his message each spring of starting anew, he has quite the voice in Ryan Anderson.
The fifth-year senior outside linebacker was among the most productive players down the stretch for last season's Crimson Tide, recording eight tackles for loss in the final six games. Anderson announced in January that he was returning for a final year in Tuscaloosa, and he has stuck with the starting-from-scratch theme ever since.
Alabama's defense has 15 players returning who compiled 10 or more tackles last season.
"You can have all the pieces to the puzzle, but that doesn't mean you're going to put it together," Anderson said in a news conference this week. "Everybody has to go back to work so we can get back to where we just came from. It's a whole new team and a whole new unit."
Spoken like someone who has sat through his share of Saban sermons since signing out of Daphne (Ala.) High School in 2012.
The Crimson Tide held their sixth practice of this spring Wednesday afternoon, working out for two hours in full pads. They will have a light practice Friday before conducting their first scrimmage Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Anderson, fellow outside linebacker Tim Williams, inside linebacker Reuben Foster, defensive end Jonathan Allen and safety Eddie Jackson each elected to delay opportunities in the NFL after last season, but there are still holes to fill. Defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson was the lone early defensive departure, and Anderson has noticed his absence.
"We don't have anybody who is 6-foot-4, 320 pounds and can dunk a basketball," he said.
Robinson has been projected as a first-round selection next month, as have former Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland and nose tackle Jarran Reed.
Ragland was the defensive leader in the Crimson Tide's drive for a fourth national title in the past seven seasons. Inheriting that role now is Foster, a former five-star signee who blossomed last fall as a junior.
"Reuben has been a leader in his own way," Anderson said. "There is not going to be a drop-off there."
Anderson once was a touted prospect as well, with 247Sports.com ranking him as the nation's top outside linebacker in the 2012 class. He redshirted his first year before playing sparingly the following season, when he totaled five tackles, including 1.5 sacks.
The 6-2, 249-pounder recorded 25 tackles — including eight tackles for loss and three sacks — as a redshirt sophomore before continuing his development last year with 37 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
"Coming here was a culture shock to me," he said. "I had to do stuff I had never done before. At first, I was stubborn about it, and I got in my own way."
Anderson now gets in the way of those looking to unseat Alabama. Having made the decision to return, he realizes how detailed Saban's annual building process can be.
He also knows why he wasn't alone in his decision to come back.
"We knew that we could be special," Anderson said.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.