CLEMSON — This fall, the future of Clemson’s defense will be easy to spot: right in the middle.
Now, Anthony will be charged with setting the defense and making line calls – a responsibility that had been handled by senior Corico Hawkins for the past two years; Hawkins moves outside to compete with fellow senior Tig Willard for playing time at “Will” linebacker.
The spotlight is on Anthony, one of Clemson’s most talented linebacker signees in recent memory.
Big things are expected from him, and he checks in at No.5 in our ongoing countdown of Clemson’s 20 most valuable players.
Anthony flashed that potential at the end of a solid freshman season, and he’ll be leaned on even more heavily this fall.
When he announced his decision to sign with Clemson on 2011’s national signing day, it capped a 1-2 punch of talented ‘backers who’d announced that day; top recruit Tony Steward announced earlier that morning.
Anthony was a USA Today and Parade first-team All-American, the nation’s No.1 outside linebacker recruit by ESPN.com and 247sports.com and No.3 by Rivals.com.
Rivals.com rated him as the nation’s No.24 overall prospect and ESPN.com rated him No.32.
Last fall, Anthony improved as he gained experience. He had four tackles and a sack in his first game, playing 22 snaps against Troy, but faded into the background a bit, playing only 17 total snaps in Clemson’s next three games.
He found his way back into the rotation with 29 snaps and five tackles in Clemson’s breakthrough 23-3 rout at Virginia Tech, and really found his stride over the final four games.
Although defensive coordinator Kevin Steele refused to classify him as a starter – calling it a function of the personnel opposing offenses began games with – Anthony started three of the final four games and rolled up a career-high 45 snaps in the Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia.
He finished the season with 32 tackles, six for loss and two sacks in 292 snaps.
Anthony has the size, speed and athletic ability to be a major force in the middle of Clemson’s defense for the next three seasons, assuming he hangs around to finish his eligibility.
Venables recognized that potential by installing him as the quarterback of his defense.
This fall, opposing offenses should start feeling his impact, too.
That’s why he’s one of the most valuable pieces of Clemson’s roster for 2012 – and beyond.