Waters Elevating His Game to New Heights

by - Correspondent -
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Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

CLEMSON --- During this past summer, Tommy Bowden began a new exercise program which calls for the Clemson football coach to lift weights so many
times during the week. This was something new for Bowden, something he hasn’t done since his playing days at West Virginia nearly 30 years ago.

As much as he hated it Bowden would always get up enough energy to go and do a serious workout. Each time he began his training, he always noticed the same person there every time. That person was linebacker Anthony Waters.

Bowden wasn’t surprised to see his starting middle linebacker working out, what surprised him was the fact he knew it wasn’t Waters’ first trip to the weight room that day.

“He worked double. I mean he would work double,” said Bowden. “I would see him in the weight room twice a day during the summer working out as opposed to the one time everyone else did.

“I see him down there working ropes, trying to get faster.”

Waters, who was challenged by the coaching staff last spring to drop some weight and to get faster, has emerged through the first four games as the Tigers’ big-play man on the defensive side of the ball. He currently ranks as Clemson’s top tackler and fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I give a lot of thanks to the defensive line for giving me a lot of opportunities to make plays,” said Hill, who lost 12 pounds over the summer to get to his current playing weight of 240 pounds. “I worked hard in the off season and things have just carried over from there.”

Bowden believes Waters’ game really elevated to new heights against Maryland, when he went up against the Terps’ D’Quell Jackson, the ACC’s top tackler.

“I think he personally challenged himself,” said Bowden. “He said ‘OK that guy is going to get a lot of attention so lets go see what I can do.’

“I talked to (West Virginia head coach) Rich Rodriguez because they played Maryland that week, and I told him to watch out for No. 52. Well, he said ‘who is that No. 40 you got.’ Since then (Waters) has now put three games together that have really been impressive and is now putting him self in position to do some things Leroy Hill was doing.”

Hill, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and a third-team Associated Press All-America, had 106 tackles in 11 games and contributed 19 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Waters level of production is not far behind so far this year. Through four games he has 44 stops and 6.4 tackles for loss to lead the Tigers in each category.

On a per game basis, Waters is averaging 11 tackles per game, above the 9.6 per game by Hill. In tackles for a loss, Hill averaged 1.72 per game last year, among the top 20 in the nation, and Waters stands at 1.63 per game this year.

“I wasn’t worried about trying to fill Leroy’s shoes,” Waters said. “I was going through the same thing and stepped up after John Leake left so I had been through that before so I had no pressure from that.”

Playing next to Hill, Waters admitted he learned a lot from the two-time All-ACC performer. Waters finished last season with 70 tackles, including nine for a loss.

“Leroy helped me out a lot from playing beside him last year. I used to always pressure myself and he told me to be patient and let things come to me and not to press myself,” Waters said. “He taught me good things always happen to those who are patient.”

Because of his patience, Waters has led Clemson in tackles in each of the last three games. Against Maryland, he had 14 in that match up with Jackson. He then posted 11 stops in the triple overtime game with Miami, and last Saturday he led the Tigers again with 14 stops, tying his career-high for the second time in three games.

“Anthony has stepped up his level of play,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “He worked hard to trim down his size and has gotten stronger. No one on this football team has worked harder than he has.”

The native of Lake View is averaging a tackle every 4.6 plays, better than the tackle for every 6.4 plays by Hill in 2004. And like Hill did for him, Waters is now trying to be a leader.

“When I’m on the field I just try to pick guys up and bring them with me because no one can do it by himself,” he said. “I just try to be a leader for everybody.”

And that leadership is now being noticed by just about everyone, and like what Hill always told him, if he continues to just let the game come to him, only good things lay in his and the Tigers way.

“He has put together three good games in a row and has shown consistency against quality competition,” said Bowden.

“Anthony has kind of challenged himself to play step by step with some of the best linebackers in the conference.
“His speed and quickness in the past would not have allowed him to make some of the plays Leroy was making, but now he is and he has really worked hard doing it.”

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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