Former Bison looks to stand out in Alabama
While former North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick was out throwing a touchdown pass in the East-West Shrine Game, his former teammate Bruce Anderson had to wait another week for his shot to impress NFL teams.
That chance arrives this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Mobile, Alabama, where Anderson will participate in the Senior Bowl.
The Ruskin, Florida product is one of six running backs at the Senior Bowl and will compete on the South team. He will be sharing snaps on the South squad with Ryquell Armstead of Temple and Wes Hills from Division II’s Slippery Rock. Karan Higdon, Tony Pollard and Dexter Williams round out the group of running backs.
The 5-foot-11-inch Anderson showcased multidimensional abilities throughout his time at North Dakota State. He rushed for an efficient 924 yards on 124 carries this season for a clip of 7.5 yards per carry. Anderson added nine rushing touchdowns, two of which came in a 185-yard performance against Cal Poly.
Anderson wasn’t strictly limited to rushing the football either, catching 12 passes for 199 yards and three scores. Throughout his time at NDSU, Anderson was an explosive pass-catching back, averaging 14 yards per catch.
When given the opportunity, Anderson was effective in the return game as well. He averaged 21.8 yards per return during the 2018 season, proving he can be explosive in all three capacities. It was his role on special teams that sparked Bruce into the collective consciousness of Bison fans. Anderson ripped off 585 return yards in his true freshman season with two playoff return touchdowns.
Anderson’s versatility only serves to heighten his NFL potential. The running back is able to plow through on carries between the tackles. Once he reaches the second level, he’s shown elusiveness in beating defenders and acceleration on the outside. At 209 pounds, Anderson is a tough tackle thanks to his overall strength and athleticism.
Because of his ability to contribute on offense as well as special teams, Anderson projects as a high-value, under-the-radar pick on either day two or three of the NFL draft. The Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs are just two teams searching for help out of the backfield.
Incidentally, the two squads’ backfield situations are tied by one name: Kareem Hunt. After a brutal video that showed Hunt abusing a woman came to light, Kansas City released the standout running back. Roughly two months later, Bears head coach Matt Nagy acknowledged that Chicago would consider bringing Hunt into the fold.
Cutting Hunt left the Chiefs to rely on Damien Williams to shoulder the load. Williams performed well as the featured back, but a complimentary option such as Anderson isn’t off the table.
Meanwhile, even if the Bears do sign Hunt in favor of current mainstay Jordan Howard, Anderson could still be a fit. In 2018, Chicago ranked dead last in yards per kick return, a category in which Anderson provides a spark.
The Dallas Cowboys, a team with whom Anderson met earlier in the week, are also seeking running back assistance. Dallas desperately needs a reliable option behind Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot led the league in both rushing attempts and yards, but was relied upon almost exclusively for the Cowboys’ ground game.
Anderson missed two games this season. While he saw the field in the championship victory over Eastern Washington, it was only as a decoy. He nursed a quadriceps injury, which simply was not cooperating in Texas.
Presuming injury issues are in the rear-view mirror, Anderson has plenty to gain from his week in Alabama. While it’s challenging for a running back to stand out in a non-contact practice situation, a few big plays in Saturday’s game could catch the eyes of scouts.
Practices are of course still paramount to scouts, but demonstrating ability in a game setting will be the ticket for Anderson. The Floridian has yet to receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place from Feb. 26 to March 4. If he can demonstrate the sort of flash he did in Fargo, that script could very well flip.
Should he score an invitation to the Combine, he would join Stick in Indianapolis. Stick was invited this past week while practicing for the East-West Shrine Game. Stick completed 5 of 8 passes at the Shrine Game for 51 yards. He added a 22-yard touchdown pass to Arizona’s Shawn Poindexter, his longest throw of the day.
Regardless, the duo will link up in late March at NDSU’s pro day. Last year, 21 teams were represented in Fargo, and the number figures to be similar again. A successful outing at the Senior Bowl, and Anderson will be a major reason why.