The Man in the Middle

by - Senior Writer -
Anthony hopes to become the man the Tiger defense needs in the middle

CLEMSON – Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Fr. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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admits that last year was one big learning session.

The freshman middle linebacker out of Polkston (Anson) N.C. arrived for fall camp last August with a ton of expectations, the kind of expectations heaped on a 5-star recruit who was expected to come in and compete for playing time right away.

But a position change early in camp – from outside linebacker to the middle – and a complex scheme combined to slow down his development while he struggled to make adjustments.

“Last year was a big learning curve,” Anthony said Saturday after the Tigers’ third practice of the spring. “I had to get used to the game, the speed of game. I had to learn the playbook. It was just a big learning curve. Sometimes I didn’t play sure of myself and that is my fault. I have to be more comfortable and be able to play faster and more downhill. Some games I wasn’t that way, and some games I was. I was very inconsistent so I have a lot to work on this spring.”

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said last week that he thinks Anthony can be an All-American sooner rather than later, and Anthony definitely looks the part – he walked off the field Saturday and said that he has a chiseled 230 pounds on his 6-3 frame.

New defensive coordinator Brent Venables has Anthony getting most of the snaps with the first team unit, but Anthony said his goal isn’t to earn a starting job – the goal is to simply work harder than ever before.

“I am just coming in to work regardless. Whatever happens happens,” he said. “I’m here to work. We’re all competing from the spring to the summer so you never know how those things work out.”

Venables has Anthony back in the middle, but he also has him working out at the WILL, or weakside linebacker spot.

“Right now, he’s got me trying to learn WILL, which mainly he [the WILL} leaves the box some,” Anthony said. “He’s trying to get me to learn WILL and MIKE, so I’m just trying to take on those two tasks and keep learning more and learning more about the game.”

Anthony said that Venables’ scheme – at least to this point – has been easier to pick up than the scheme of former defensive coordinator Kevin SteeleKevin Steele
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
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“It’s kind of an easy transition from last year’s defense. It’s more simplistic and you get into it a lot more,” he said. “It’s not as complex as Coach Steele’s defense. It’s just different schemes and different words. It’s real simple, but not too simple. It is what it is. He wants us to do less thinking and play faster and more downhill.”

He said that Venables and Steele also have different personalities.

“Very different personalities. They are both great coaches,” he said. “Coach Venables is a great guy. It’s been good to be out here with him for the last two days and to learn from him and learn how things are going to be. He is a great teacher. He is very strict and very, very tight on the little things- fundamentals is what he is going to teach every day- staying square, getting downhill, eyes and vision. He is real strict on the fundamentals. He wants you to be out there and actually see the play and what you did wrong so we’ll be out there and go through it and make sure you know what you did and correct the mistakes.”

Anthony said that Venables’ hands-on approach and his own maturity have led to a comfort level he didn’t have last season.

“I feel a lot more comfortable. I feel like I’ve grown a little bit and I am able to just settle down and play the game,” he said. “I’ve gained five pounds. I’m right at 230 so I’ve gained a little bit of weight. I want to be able to run and be able to flow and keep my hips and be able to move. I am playing more sure of myself and playing downhill, knowing and learning more about the game- the little things that help me get better. I just want to continue to get better on the field and continue to grow as a person and continue to help my team.”

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