How Alabama's Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson shut down USC
USC right tackle Zach Banner has been talked about at a potential first-round draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft. PFF senior analyst Steve Palazzolo had him as our No. 45-ranked player in the nation heading into this season, and when you look back on his 2015 season, you’ll see an incredibly well-rounded player who was graded well both as a run blocker and in pass protection.
Simply put, he’s one of the best offensive linemen in college football and a top-50 player, period. However, Banner had yet to go up against a defense as talented as Alabama, and we saw him get completely overwhelmed by the edge-rushing combination of Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson.
So how exactly did the dangerous duo make life miserable for USC’s best offensive lineman? Let’s take a look.
Dominant from the first drive…
The dominance from the Alabama pass-rushers started on the very first drive of the game, and after missing Ryan Anderson on screen blocks on the first play of the game, and on 2nd-and-9 with 13:55 left in the first quarter, it was time for Tim Williams to put him to the test on 3rd-and-12. Knocking him back toward quarterback Max Browne, Williams beat him inside late to register his first hurry of the 2016 season.
It got better for Williams and Anderson midway through the first quarter, with two big plays in a three-snap span. First, Williams beat him inside for a pressure on 2nd-and-10 with 6:39 left in the opening quarter. It’s subtle, but Williams sets him up well with his initial step to the outside before bursting inside to beat Banner with ease, leaving the running back to try to hold him off as best as possible.
Then, two plays later on 4th-and-7 with 6:14 remaining, Anderson beat him, this time for a sack. Here Anderson used his hands well, and as Banner attempted to usher him wide upfield, he simply cut inside to register the sack. This was always going to be the concern for a tackle like Banner against Williams and Anderson. He’s a very good offensive lineman, and has the size advantage, but the speed and agility advantage was always going to favor the pass-rushing duo, and it showed early on.
… And continued as the game went on
Unfortunately for Banner, the first quarter was a sign of things to come, and things didn’t get any better for him as the game went on. He would finish the game with one positively-graded play as a run blocker, and seven negatively graded plays in pass protection. His struggles against the speed and agility continued to haunt him, and led to a hit on Browne by Williams on 3rd-and-7 with 12:06 remaining in the game. This time he was lined up wide, and was simply too quick for Banner to get to.
By the end of the game, and not all against Banner, Williams had registered two hits and three hurries on just 17 pass-rushing snaps. Anderson had registered a sack, two hits and two hurries on 25 pass rushing snaps. Our pass rushing productivity signature stat measures pressure on a per snap basis, with weighting towards sacks and hits. Anderson was eighth among 4-3 defensive ends with a PRP rating of 13.0, which is impressive enough. Williams was the best in the nation, with a PRP rating of 23.4. That number itself is ridiculous, but when you really dig into it, you see that Williams got pressure of some form once every 3.2 pass-rushing attempts. Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett has a phenomenal game against UCLA, but even he trailed Williams, averaging a pressure once every four pass-rushing snaps.
How Alabama lined them up
One thing which will be interesting to monitor as the season progresses is how Alabama will use both of their talented pass-rushers. Against USC on Saturday night, Williams spent 22 of his 26 snaps lined up against Banner at right tackle, with 12 of those snaps coming standing up. Anderson spent 26 of his 38 snaps on the edge on the same side, so it seems like they want to rotate them on that side for the most part.
That alone should come as a terrifying thought for the rest of the SEC. On some occasions the Crimson Tide will put both men on the field together. When they aren’t doing that, your right tackle is having to deal with one of the best pass-rushers in the nation, and thanks to the depth on this Alabama defense, both are going to be relatively fresh throughout the game.