Armed with knowledge, confidence, Stephone Anthony ready to cut loose and play

Junior former 5-star recruit the centerpiece in a strong, deep, versatile unit

Clemson Tigers linebacker Stephone Anthony and Clemson Tigers linebacker Jonathan Willard tackle Ball State Cardinals running back Jahwan Edwards in the second quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson Tigers linebacker Stephone Anthony and Clemson Tigers linebacker Jonathan Willard tackle Ball State Cardinals running back Jahwan Edwards in the second quarter.

There was a time when Stephone Anthony felt himself a bit at sea being the Clemson defense's man in the middle.

Not any more.

With a year in Brent Venables defensive system under his belt - a season in which he lost his job mid-season to Spencer Shuey - Anthony is back at 'Mike,' where Venables believes he belongs.

At 6-2, 246 pounds, with speed and strength to burn, Anthony has been described by Venables as a "prototypical" middle linebacker.

Anthony is determined to live up to his coach's expectations, and his own five-star hype.

"I feel better than I did last year," said Anthony after Clemson's fourth spring practice on Monday. "I was still learning things last year, and was my first time in the defense and it didn't go as well. After a while, I kind of caught on to it, but now I feel like things are going well."

Armed with the confidence born of knowing his position, Anthony is convinced he just needs to cut loose and let himself play.

"I just need to be myself and keep moving forward one day at a time," he said. "I'll keep on working on my fundamentals and technique.

"After being in his system a year, I'm a lot more comfortable and confident. I still have growing to do and a chance to get better."

A helpful aid has been the Tigers' off-season film-work and self-review.

"Watching film of last season has been good," Anthony said. "It's given us a chance to study ourselves, see how we perform against different looks and see how we look as a defense. It's a good chance for us to learn."

He said the Tiger linebackers, overall, have greatly raised the competitive level.

"It's very competitive right now," he said. "I feel like with the guys we have back and the new faces coming it, we're stacked. I expect us to real good as long as we keep working at it every day."

Anthony said the greatest difference between playing in the middle and outside is that he has to take on bigger blockers.

"The biggest difference at 'mike' is in taking on guards," he said. "I'm more comfortable with that now. I feel like the game has slowed down for me a little bit. I'm a lot more comfortable in knowing where I have to be and where I have to get to.

"I'm able to focus in on exactly what I have to do. I can take what I learned last year and just keep going. I feel like I've come to the place where I can concentrate on the details more."

Learning to see the field, to use his eyes in a trained, disciplined way, is essential, Anthony said.

"There's a learning curve, and the first time in a new defense it's going to be tough," he said. "Sometimes the position can be really complicated and sometimes it's not. It's just something you have keep working on.

"Focusing your eyes is a big thing. You have to be able see where you're going and where you've got to go."

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33dtb writes:

Hope so.

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