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Alex "Thor" Anzalone was a 5 star LB recruit coming out of Wyomissing High School, in Wyomissing, Pa. where as a junior, ran for over 900 yards and scored 13 touchdowns from the fullback position and was named first team all-state, all-region and all-county. He was named senior Class AA Player of the Year as part of the 2012 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Team. As a senior he helped guide his team to their first Class AA state championship, finishing 16-0, a school single-season record for wins was named to the all-state team and was invited to "The Opening", an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus. He was selected to the 2013 Under Armor All-American Game, finishing his senior year with over 1,000 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns from the fullback position and registered more than 100 tackles. He also earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team. 247Sports, which rated Anzalone as a five-star prospect in its unique rankings and four-star in its composite, only ranked three outside linebackers better than Anzalone in the Class of 2013, Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas (Florida State) and Jonathan Allen (Alabama). He chose the University of Florida after committing and de-committing to Ohio State and Notre Dame following unusual and non-football related situations with both schools.
Anzalone is a highly intelligent and instinctive LB with the size and athletic ability to be a very productive player in the NFL. His durability is a major concern after back to back injury plagued seasons, though when healthy, he was referred to as the "heart of the defense" by coaches. He is a hard worker on and off the field and his teammates rave about him. His head coach McElwain explained "He's got a pulse on our team, and he's not that vocal, but when he does say something, it doesn't matter, everybody listens."
STRENGTHS: Anzalone has prototypical height and size for the LB position at 6-3, 241 lbs, with long arms and a toned, yet powerful build. He is an impressive athlete with good balance and very good quickness, agility, acceleration, explosiveness and ability to change direction. He has tremendous football intelligence, instincts and football I.Q., often seen lining up teammates around him. He quickly diagnoses plays, reacting accordingly with confidence and power, filling his assigned gap and trusting his teammates to be in proper position as well. This ability to quickly diagnose plays, sees him meet lead/pulling blockers, sometimes earlier than expected in the hole, blowing up the play with good power at the point of contact and forcing ball carriers to look elsewhere for room to run. He does a good job of timing his blitzes and explodes through gaps with surprising acceleration and quickness, leading to tackles for loss and the occasional sack. He does a good job of setting the edge and forcing ball carriers back into the interior of the defense. He does a solid job of disengaging blockers, using his hands well to push-pull or swipe away and even sometimes controls the blocker and uses him to fill a hole. Anzalone does a good job of using his agility to weave through traffic and pursues ball carriers with ideal angles and a motor that's always hot. He is a sure handed tackler with good technique, wrapping up and driving through ball carriers aggressively. He has some versatility, as he lined up both inside and outside for the Gators, even lining up over the slot receiver at times. His zone coverage ability is solid, getting to his area of responsibility while keeping is eyes up and in the back field, ready to read and react to the QB's eyes, though this is an area he should develop further with more experience. Though he missed some time with injuries, Anzalone attended every practice and helped the team anyway he could, often assisting younger teammates.
WEAKNESSES: Anzalone's most glaring weakness is by far his durability. Prior to the 2015 season, his first as a starter, Alex injured his shoulder in practice and after fighting through the pain for the first two games, decided to have surgery and redshirt the year. In 2016, he came back and looked like the 5 star recruit he once was before breaking his arm in week 9 against Arkansas, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. His athleticism allows him to keep up with most RB's and TE's though can be seen giving his opponent a little too much slack, leading to some completions, though he is usually close enough to make a tackle in this scenario. He does have a habit of leaving his feet when attempting an open field tackle, something coaches will likely try to reel in, in most cases. Even though he has been in Gainesville since 2013, he only started 10 games, something that may lower his stock a bit. He also could gain to work on his awareness while in zone coverage, not purely staying locked onto the QB's eyes the entire time and being more aware of the receivers around him. He could also improve his block shedding ability against offensive linemen with longer arms as he can get driven back a bit while fighting to disengage. When asked to rush the passer on the edge, he tends to stall out if unable to capture the edge and his initial inside rip move fails.
IN OUR VIEW: Anzalone is a highly intelligent and instinctive LB with the size and athletic ability to play in any scheme, though his best fit would be as a 4-3 middle or weak side LB to allow him more space to read, react and pursue. Due to his durability concerns and lack of ideal experience, Anzalone is likely to drop into the late 3rd to 4th round range. If not for these reasons, it would not have been out of the realm of possibility to see his as a borderline 1st round pick.
COMPARES TO: Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys: Both are similar in size with prototypical measurable, both are highly instinctual and technically sound players. Like Lee, Anzalone has had his fair share of injuries and durability is his biggest concern. If(and its a big if) Anzalone can find a way to stay healthy for a full season, he has the chance to compete for a starting LB job immediately and later develop into an every down starting LB and borderline pro bowler in the NFL.