Over the next 34 days, Gator Country will preview the players that make up the 2013 Florida Gators football team as we inch closer and closer to the season.
Each day we will count down using the player whose jersey number corresponds with how many days there are left until Florida kicks off against Toledo in the Swamp on August 31.
Today we take a look at freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone.
Alex Anzalone’s recruitment is a microcosm of just how crazy the recruiting process can be.
Anzalone committed to Ohio State in April of 2012. After news broke that Anzalone and other commits had been approached and had contact with a convicted sex offender and Buckeye fan Eric Waugh. Anzalone decommitted from Ohio State that May and listed five new schools that he was now interested in – a list that included Florida but not Ohio State. Anzalone’s recruitment was far from over.
Anzalone was invited to The Opening and that is where Anzalone made his second verbal commitment – this time to Notre Dame. Despite the Notre Dame pledge, Anzalone would finish the summer in Gainesville at Friday Night Lights.
Anzalone visited Florida several times during his senior year unofficially and there was even a rumor that Anzalone was silently committed to Florida while publicly still being committed to Notre Dame. Is your head spinning yet?
As an early enrollee, Anzalone’s recruitment ended earlier than other but that doesn’t mean it ended quietly. Anzalone was all set to enroll at Notre Dame when he had a change of heart and decided the day before he would enroll in college to switch his commitment and become a Gator. Anzalone and his family got in their car and drove south.
Anzalone showed up in Gainesville on January 10 and his decommitment from Notre Dame became official and public. He enrolled the next day at Florida and the rest, as they say, is history. And that is why coaches will continue recruiting players until the ink on their letter of intent is dry and in the hands of a college coach.
Anzalone participated in spring practice this season and was initially listed as the backup Mike linebacker before a torn labrum ended his spring just two practices in. Anzalone continues to go through his rehab but will be limited early in the fall as he continues coming back from his surgery.
Anzalone is a physically impressive looking player. My first thought when seeing Anzalone in person during spring practice was that he did not look like a typical freshman in college.
Anzalone is an athletic linebacker who can play all three-linebacker positions for Florida but appears to have found a permanent home at middle linebacker. Anzalone is very good at coming down and filling gaps in the run game. He’s a physical, wrap-up tackler who is adept at making plays in space.
Anzalone is very good in coverage as well. He is an unbelievable athlete (he played running back and tight end in high school as well as linebacker) and can turn and run with tight ends and running backs in man or zone coverage.
He has great closing speed and he can cover a ton of ground in the blink of an eye.
Anzalone shows some stiffness in his hips on film. He overcomes this with sheer athleticism but Anzalone could work to become more fluid in his technique. Anzalone doesn’t appear to be a player who has great football instincts but rather a player who relies on his knowledge of the playbook and his physical ability to put himself in the right places on the football field.
What to Expect
Anzalone was all-set to make a major impact for the Gators this season before tearing his labrum in the spring. Initially, Muschamp had said that Anzalone would be able to be a full participant when fall camp opened up on August 1 but he backed off that statement last week at SEC media days.
“Trip Thurman and Alex Anzalone are the only guys limited going into camp. Both of those guys have shoulder surgery in the spring.” Muschamp said. “They may be limited as far as contact till the 10th or 12th practice. I can update you as we go there.”
Anzalone hasn’t wasted time while rehabbing. He has gotten into the playbook and I have been told that he is a “playbook freak” and like “Peyton Manning on defense” with how well he knows Florida’s defensive playbook.
Once his body is fully healthy and he is cleared for contact, Anzalone will be able to jump into Florida’s linebacker rotation and make an immediate impact for the Gators as a freshman.