First turnover nets Will Anderson a few bucks, now Alabama football seeks a windfall | Goodbread

Will Anderson Jr. will be collecting, it's just a question of how much.

The Alabama football star won a kitty, with a buy-in of 20 bucks among he and other defensive teammates, as the first defender to notch a takeaway for the Crimson Tide. It's a pot that had to sit for awhile as Alabama's highly-regarded defense failed to record a turnover in its first two games, but Anderson finally broke the ice with an interception in the first half of a 63-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

Perhaps a $20 ante would be a good idea for every takeaway, because generating turnovers at a higher rate will be crucial for the Crimson Tide through its navigation of Southeastern Conference play, which begins this week against visiting Vanderbilt (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network). One every three games certainly won't suffice when Alabama's competition begins to stiffen in October and November. With Anderson destroying pockets as the nation's premiere pass rusher, combined with an experienced secondary and plenty of other complementary talents, this defense can and should be a dominant one.

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But domination demands takeaways, not just three-and-outs.

Without them, there is only so much juice a defense can bring to the team as a whole. Limiting points is ultimately what matters most, and Alabama has been outstanding in that regard, allowing less than nine points per game through Week 3. But turnovers change momentum and outcomes. They're the No. 1 cause of offensive coordinators hurling headsets, flinging play sheets and pounding press box tables.

No Alabama defense in recent memory proved that quite like the 2016 unit, which rang up an incredible 11 defensive touchdowns, forced 26 fumbles (recovering 13 of them) and intercepted 13 passes. When it didn't score on its own, it set up the Alabama offense with enough short fields that 136 of the team's 582 points that season (23%) came off turnovers. That Alabama defense had a mindset the 2022 group could take a page from.

There will be moments in close games this fall when an Alabama offense that, as of now, is still searching for more consistency, will need a short field or two. And it will take more than just Anderson's prolific pass-rush skills to generate it. Coach Nick Saban made that clear enough.

"You see the reaction from (Anderson's) teammates when he had success and scored a touchdown. We need to do more of that. Not just Will, but everybody on defense," Saban said Monday. "Create more turnovers, make more big plays, make explosive plays, score on defense."

Now, about that kitty: Anderson didn't say exactly how many defensive players were in the pool, but it was enough that he'll be seeking full payout.

“They keep bringing up this NIL stuff saying, ‘Will Anderson doesn’t need it.’ That’s horse crap," Anderson said with a smile. "I’m going to get my 20 out of everybody.”

Have no doubt that he will. But if this Alabama defense is going to reach its full potential, he'll have to contribute more to the pot than he collects.

Reach Chase Goodbread at cgoodbread@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread

Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.
Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football defense must create turnovers for 2022 success story