• The biggest battle this side of National Signing Day concerns Rice left tackle Calvin Anderson, a graduate transfer with his eyes set on playing for a national power in 2018. Anderson opens up on the twist and turns of his recruitment with its end in sight.
By Bruce Feldman
February 01, 2018

Ohio State is helping archrival Michigan in recruiting one of the nation’s hottest commodities.

Wait ... what?

Calvin Anderson, a three-year starting offensive lineman at Rice, has been swamped with dozens of offers from many of the top programs in college football since he announced his decision to leave as a graduate transfer on Jan. 6 with a post from his Twitter account, followed by another tweet of his highlight tape with footage included against standout defensive linemen Harrison Phillips from Stanford and Louisiana Tech’s Jaylen Ferguson.

Four years ago, Anderson was a 6'4", 235-pound two-star prospect from Austin. Rice had offered him when he was a 210-pound junior, and he later declined a few Power 5 scholarship offers that came in (Texas Tech and Kansas State) out of respect for the Owls’ staff for being the first one to believe in him. This time around, the pursuit for him as really been “hectic.” Anderson told SI he has come up with his top five.

“The best way I’d put it now is that Texas and Michigan are first tier,” Anderson says. “Behind them is Auburn, and then [Oklahoma] and then TCU. It’s mostly fluid, though, from No. 1 through 4, with TCU a little less likely.” He has set a deadline to make his decision by March 25—the day he turns 22—but adds that he’ll likely make his decision before then.

(Update: As Anderson got ready to fly out to Auburn on the Friday after National Signing Day, he told SI that it’s plausible that Texas A&M could rise above TCU into his top five after he talks with the Aggies staff following the Auburn trip. A&M had offered Anderson earlier in the week.)

Texas was the first school to connect with Anderson last month. Derek Warehime, the Longhorns’ O-line coach at the time, had contacted Anderson’s high school discus coach, and they linked up after the 21-year-old got his release.

Texas also provided the craziest twist to Anderson’s recruitment last month.

Auburn was actually the first program to visit Anderson, with O-line Herb Hand coming to see him. Then three days later, Anderson saw on Twitter that Hand was leaving Auburn to become Texas’s offensive line coach. (Warehime is staying on the UT staff as the Longhorns’ tight ends coach.)

“It was all news to me,” Anderson says. “I love Coach Herb. He’s awesome. I think he’s a great guy. The next time I saw him he was in a Texas shirt. But I know this business is a business. When I found out about it on Twitter I asked the UT coaches immediately and they responded and we talked it out. They explained it was what happened and were pretty transparent about it.

“His pitch really didn’t change. From the beginning he’s talked very specifically about why he wants to coach me. He really sold me on why he thinks I’m a good player and on the things he can help coach me to get better at. It was not as much of a recruiting pitch change as you might think. He said he can help fix my stance, get it more square, help me play with better pad level, teach me some technique things as far as double teams and stepping off the ball which will help me to maximize my ability to use my leverage.”

Anderson loved his experience at Rice and the undergraduate degree he’s on track to get. The 6'5", 302-pound honor student will finish up on May 12 with a major in Mathematical Economic Analysis. He is also pretty slick with a Rubik’s cube:

Even though new Owls head coach Mike Bloomgren developed more than his share of NFL offensive linemen as the O-line coach (and later offensive coordinator) at Stanford, Anderson explained why he felt it was best he needed to move on.

“As soon as Bloomgren got on campus, I spoke to him that same day,” Anderson says. “If I was just considering Coach Bloomgren, it would’ve been perfect, but part of the problem is what I need out of my next year to play at a higher level on a bigger stage with better competition. It wasn’t really about Coach Bloomgren. It was more about Conference USA and trying to move up from that.

“I think it is more about who I am playing against. I want to display my talents against better players. Obviously, it’s a bonus to be on a good team, a team that can win a championship. All of that stuff is great. The motivation for the transfer was to play against better defensive linemen.”

Anderson has a list of criteria and says he’s done his research about each team’s schedule. He’s trying to get a better feel for the various staffs, especially the strength coaches and the offensive line coach, who can best prepare him for the NFL.

“A big plus for me with Michigan is [O-line coach Tim Drevno] has coached in the NFL before,” Anderson says. "Sitting down talking Xs and Os with him, he just understands the process and how that transition works. He knows the guys who are in the draft room and what they’re looking for. That’s a big deal.”

Another big deal for Anderson is how formidable some of the Wolverines’ 2018 opponents are, especially the end-of-season matchup with Ohio State’s vaunted defensive front.

“In the Big Ten, they have bigger defensive linemen, and for me to be able to display that run-blocking ability is gonna be a big benefit of going to Michigan. In the Big 12, you’d have really good edge rushers that I’d play against. I’m comparing styles of offenses.”

Next weekend he plans to take an official visit to Auburn, where returning Tigers O-line coach J.B. Grimes helped develop Greg Robinson into the second overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft.

This weekend, Anderson is going back to Fort Hood to see his father, a former Army defensive back-turned-doctor, get promoted to colonel. His mom is a lawyer who attended Texas, but the younger Anderson said their connection to UT won’t play a role in his decision.

“What I think does act as a bonus to me, it would be cool to come back to a city that I know, but I don’t think that’s going to be a determining factor,” he says. “Where I go is going to be about what’s going to be the best opportunity for me to prepare for the next level.”

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