By Dustin Dopirak —
Ryder Anderson wasn’t exactly sure where he was Tuesday in the course of his seven-hour trip from Oxford, Miss., to Bloomington. He just knew his 2016 Dodge Charger was pointed north and it was getting colder as he drove.
“It’s 45 degrees where I am now,” he told a reporter. “Is it colder than that up there?”
It was in fact a few degrees colder in Bloomington Tuesday and that is something that is going to take some getting used to for Anderson. He announced his decision to transfer from Ole Miss to Indiana on Jan. 8, just six days after the Rebels beat the Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl and before he ever got a chance to take a visit.
Anderson grew up in Katy, Texas and the only time he’s ever left the South was to see his older brother Rodney, a running back who starred at Oklahoma, when he was playing with the Bengals in 2019.
“I’ve never even been up North like that,” Anderson said. “I’ve been to Cincinnati once to visit my brother, but that’s it. It’s exciting. It’s new scenery for me for sure. But from what everyone tells me, it’s a beautiful place. From the pictures it looks great. I’m excited.”
As foreign as the scenery will be, however, Anderson picked Indiana as his transfer destination for his final season of college football because of a sense of familiarity. Indiana coach Tom Allen had been on the staff Ole Miss before arriving at Indiana in 2016, and safeties coach Jason Jones and recently departed defensive coordinator Kane Wommack were both still on the staff at there when Anderson was recruited and began his career. For that reason, it was one of the first places he considered when he decided he wanted to transfer.
He was even more interested after Ole Miss beat Indiana 26-20. He noticed that the Hoosiers were playing with a backup quarterback in Jack Tuttle, who had to take over a month earlier after Michael Penix tore his ACL. He also noticed that when they fell behind they rallied back.
“I was like, ‘That’s a great team we just played,’” Anderson said. “They have a lot of guys coming back. Defensively, it’s a good fit for me. It’s what I was looking for. I was like, ‘This is a place where I can compete and we can be good.”
“I’m gon get everything I need I’ll do whatever it take” 💯 pic.twitter.com/5Tn8lyoYc9
— Ryder Anderson (@ryderanderson10) January 19, 2021
The scheme fits because it gets him back to being the player he was at the end of his career at Katy High School.
Anderson has always been a work in progress because he’s always been a body in progress – long and lean and built more like a small forward in high school and then a power forward in college than anything else. He was following Rodney and had his work ethic, but didn’t have the obvious position fit.
“He was always so thin,” Katy High School coach Robert Ortiz said. “He was so quick and so agile, but we just weren’t able to keep a lot of weight on him.”
At Katy, Anderson played some quarterback, then moved to outside linebacker before the coaching staff finally settled on defensive end. He wouldn’t have nearly as much heft as the offensive tackles he was going up against because he only weighed about 220 pounds at the time, but they figured the length and speed would make up for that and it did.
“It just kind of fit with him putting his hand down,” Ortiz said. “… He had always done some really good things with his hands. His arms are so long. He’s so long with what he does. He’s got the ability to keep people off of him. He was always able to do that. It was just a matter of bringing his footwork along and putting some weight on.”
He did at Ole Miss, bulking up to 6-foot-6, 275 pounds. And that led to him being moving around the line and spending more time in the interior, especially this season. He was effective, recording career highs in tackles (42), tackles for loss (7.0) and sacks (2.5) this season.
But Anderson gets an extra year of college football because of COVID-19 and he wants to use it somewhere that he can play exclusively at defensive end.
“It’s going to give me more of a a true end feel,” Anderson said. “I’m going to get to play a lot on the edge. At Ole Miss I played all over the line, which I did love, getting to showcase my versatility. But for my final season, I wanted to get a little more solid edge work. Just work on my craft there and that’s what Indiana offered me.”
Anderson will have to battle for a starting spot. The Hoosiers lost their starting defensive tackles in Jerome Johnson and Jovan Swann, but everyone who started at defensive end this season will return including James Head Jr. But Anderson has a good shot at winning a starting spot and at least getting into the end rotation. With the benefit of two additional games, he had more sacks (2.5) and tackles for a loss (7) than Indiana’s ends had combined in 2020.
“I feel like that’s a room I can grow in,” Anderson said. “It’s not just me transferring somewhere and not having the ability to continue to get better. Indiana is really a place where I can get the most out of my final year.”
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