Anthony Anderson on his position change
Derek Dooley explained it with one of his trademark analogies.
Anthony Anderson did it with a smile and a joke.
Anderson, the fifth-year senior who committed to Tennessee as a junior at Austin-East High School, moved from cornerback to wide receiver before Friday's practice. Though it's a move that effectively ends his chances of ever breaking into the secondary's starting rotation, Anderson embraced the move with a positive attitude and a strong dose of self-awareness.
"The guys look up to me just as a good guy on the team and a guy who works hard who is also a senior and a leader," Anderson said. "That's the big part of me moving over there, just to let them know it's not about individuals. It's about a team effort and everything else will take care of itself.
"Hopefully one day I'll be the greatest to ever play (wide receiver) — for one year."
Anderson wasn't without company when he swapped his orange, defensive practice jersey for a white one Friday. Redshirt sophomore Naz Oliver, who missed most of the 2010 season with a knee injury and was similarly bogged down on the depth chart, also is transitioning to wide receiver, as a variety of recent injuries has decimated the number of able bodies at the position.
Anderson, though, was provided with a slew of options before he made the switch. As one of the team's few seniors, he could have very well rejected Dooley's suggestion and stayed on defense.
"We're all selfish by nature. We're born selfish," Dooley said. "When a baby is hungry, he cries and gets mad because all he's thinking about is 'I need some milk.' When you take away a toy from a baby, he cries and gets mad because he's not thinking about sharing. He's thinking, 'I want my toy.'
"You have to beat out that self-absorbed trait that we are all born with. And Anthony has none of that. It's a real tribute to his character."
Anderson isn't entirely new to the position. In his senior year at Austin-East, he was an All-PrepXtra defensive back and wide receiver, reeling in 48 catches for 1,010 yards and 14 touchdowns.
That's one of the reasons why Anderson isn't just moving to be a space-filler for the likes of banged-up receivers Zach Rogers (triceps), Matt Milton (abdominal muscle) and DeAnthony Arnett (hamstring).
The other reason, Dooley said, is less tangible but, perhaps, more important.
"He brings a nice senior presence into that room," Dooley said. "We've got a young room in there. Our oldest guy is Zach, and he doesn't talk. The next-oldest guys are true sophomores. We've got a lot of youth in there. I think Anthony will help us.
"Great character, team football player, loves Tennessee."
Anderson has been a fixture on special teams for the past two seasons, and he appeared to have his best shot at legitimate playing time when he exited spring camp atop the depth chart as a co-starter with freshman Justin Coleman. An influx of young talent from UT's 2011 signing class, though, quickly pushed Anderson to the back of the pile as camp progressed.
Though Coleman is one of the players who helped push him out of the mix at cornerback, Anderson said he held no hard feelings. Instead, Anderson said he worked side-by-side with the freshman, taking time to pass on some veteran advice whenever the opportunity presented itself.
"I tell him every day, 'Don't take his opportunity for granted,' " Anderson said. "It can easily be taken away from an injury or if they see somebody else moving up the depth chart."
Anderson said he's started doing the same with the underclassmen who make up the bulk of UT's receiving corps. Projected starters Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers have already heard Anderson say he didn't switch positions just to "be behind you."
Anderson also is one of two players left standing in the competition at punt returner. Injuries to freshmen Tom Smith and Devrin Young have left Anderson, who finished 2010 at the position, and freshman running back Marlin Lane as the remaining contenders with two weeks remaining until the season opener.
"I really want it bad," Anderson said. "I'm still going to work hard at it, every position they have my name listed at, because you never know when I'll be back there.
"I really want the position but it's whatever coach wants."