Once Henry Anderson learned how to play low, his star began to rise.
The ability of Stanford's 6-foot-6, 278-pound redshirt sophomore defensive end to play with better pad level has keyed Anderson's pursuit of a starting spot in 2012. Anderson is currently the frontrunner to replace Matt Masifilo at the defensive end spot opposite Ben Gardner.
"In high school you get away with playing high and not using hands because you're bigger than everybody, but at this level you have to really get your technique down if you want to be a good run defender," Anderson said. "So that's an area that I think I've probably improved the most in."
Anderson's large frame is an asset in deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage, but it also has the potential to work against him in the run game.
"It works for you and against you like you said," Anderson said. "One of the disadvantages of being so tall is that your pad level tends to be a little bit higher than some of the smaller guys, so that's something I've been working on a lot. We have a couple 6-foot-6 guys so Coach Hart has been working with us a lot trying to keep our pads down. It's in the run game that one of the biggest things is keeping your pads down and trying to get extension by keeping your pads low."
Stanford coach David Shaw said that he recognized Anderson's talent - and Anderson's need to improve his technique - early in the Georgia native's college career.
"I talked to Henry his freshman year and I told him flat out when you play low, you are very good," Shaw said. "When you don't play low, we can all block you. That was the year he redshirted, but he's playing lower and for a guy who's 6-foot-6 and playing inside, he gets off and plays low. He's got such an unbelievable reach. He bats down passes and he pushes guards back in the quarterback's lap."
Anderson's athleticism - recall his near scoop and score of a fumble in last year's San Jose State game - has also helped him stake claim to a significant role on Stanford's defense in 2012.
"He's done a great job and one of the things that people don't say about him, but the more you watch him he's a really good athlete," Shaw said. "He runs extremely well."
And while Stanford hasn't officially named a starter at defensive end, Anderson currently holds the upper hand.
"If we had to name a leader today and put someone out there, if we were playing today we'd probably (choose Henry), but that's not to say by the 7:30 meeting tonight it might not change," defensive line coach Randy Hart said last week.
Anderson said that the prospect of starting hasn't changed his mindset during camp.
"It's still pretty much the same," Anderson said. "It's try to go in every day and just working. Learn from the older guys. Ben Gardner has been really good. Coach Hart, working with him the past few years has really helped. So coming in it's just trying to get better each day on weaknesses and keeping the strengths, so it's pretty much the same mindset. It's a little bit different but kind of the same foundation, I guess."
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