Sizing up the ACC: Stephone Anthony anchors Tiger LB corps in transition

Clemson Football - Defensive coordinator Brent Venables and head coach Dabo Swinney greet Stephone Anthony as he returns to the bench

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson Football - Defensive coordinator Brent Venables and head coach Dabo Swinney greet Stephone Anthony as he returns to the bench

Clemson loses its leader in solo tackles ( Spencer Shuey, 56) and a three-year starter (Quandon Christian) from the linebacker corps this season, leaving open spots on either side of stalwart MIKE Stephone Anthony.

Three of the four vying for the playing time were rated four-star or higher – senior former five-star Tony Steward leading the way at Shuey’s old position.

Per Clemson’s final ’13 stats, Anthony averaged the most snaps per tackle (6.1) among starting peers, but off the bench, rising sophomore Ben Boulware had one every 4.1. Steward averaged a solid 5.8 on the field almost 100 more snaps than the T.L. Hanna product (167 to 73).

In a spot shared with the nickel position, redshirt freshman Dorian O’Daniel and sophomore T.J. Burrell will compete for playing time on the strongside. Burrell played 80 snaps last season, totaling six tackles (5 on special teams as well).

In the middle, Anthony was as good as any in the nation – his 15 tackles for loss in the top-10 among ’13 returners. He led Clemson in tackles seven of 13 games last year.

A look at the returning ACC picture…

ACC Leaders (linebacker)

Tackles Per Game

1) David Helton (Duke) – 9.5

2) Denzel Perryman (Miami) – 8.3

3) Kelby Brown (Duke) – 8.1

4) Henry Coley (Virginia) – 7.5

5) Daquan Romero (Virginia) – 7.4

Tackles For Loss

1) Stephone Anthony (Clemson) – 15

2) Norkeithus Otis (UNC – 14

3) Cameron Lynch (Syracuse) – 12

4) Kelby Brown (Duke) – 11

5) James Burgess (Louisville) – 9

Projecting the ACC Linebackers

(If you haven’t been around with us before, the rankings are based on production/field impact – not a straight measure of their abilities like a NFL draft board. We’re looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers.)

Tier 1

1) Florida State

Outlook: The ‘Noles just stockpile talent defensively – linebacker no exception, but they do lose a pair of playmakers in Telvin Smith and Christian Jones. In addition to some experience in Terrance Smith (59 tackles), former Clemson target Reggie Northrup (46) and Ukeme Eligwe (28) – former five-star Matthew Thomas figures to be in the mix after a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2013.

2) Duke

Outlook: In terms of yards given up, Duke wasn’t any good against the pass (13th in the ACC) or run (14th) last season, but in a 4-2-5 scheme, the Blue Devil linebackers were all over the field. David Helton and Kelby Brown were two of the top-three in not just tackles, but also tackles per game – and Duke returns all of the contributors who played behind them.

3) Clemson

Outlook: The production from Anthony is a given – the question is if he can be even more disruptive in the backfield with another veteran d-line in front of him. Steward or Boulware will share the load at a key spot in Brent Venables’ defense on one side of Anthony, making or breaking Clemson’s ability to contain at the second level.

4) Virginia

Outlook: Virginia has experience (two in the top-15 returners in tackles – Daquan Romero, 89; Henry Coley, 90) and looks pair that with a move up defensively, mediocre (66th in total ‘D’) to bad (99th in scoring ‘D’) last season.

5) Louisville

Outlook: Louisville joined Clemson in the top-10 nationally in tackles for loss last season, but most came in the d-line – junior linebacker James Burgess the best back (9). The Cards face replacing their top tackler (Preston Brown, 98), but recruited pretty well in the previous regime defensively.

6) North Carolina

Outlook: Top tackler Travis Hughes returns (76), along with Otis and his 14 TFL in a defense led by a pair of former Clemson assistants (Vic Koenning and Ron West). UNC has recruited well, but hasn’t had a top-25 defense since 2009 (6th).

7) Syracuse

Outlook: The ‘Cuse has a pair of starters returning in seniors Cameron Lynch (69 tackles) and Dyshawn Davis (48). Davis is second only to Vic Beasley nationally in active career TFL (27).

8) Miami

Outlook: Denzel Perryman is one of three returning ACCers who had triple-digit tackles (108) – second in tackles per game (8.3). The ‘Canes lose some production, but return another primary starter (Thurston Armbrister, 33 tackles) and have a pair of former four-stars competing on the other side (Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace).

9) Boston College

Outlook: In terms of production, BC has been linebacker 'U' of late, but they lose two 100-plus tacklers. The cupboard isn't bare though, with rising junior Steven Daniels (88 tackles) and senior Josh Keyes (30 tackles/3.5 sacks) returning.

Tier 2

10) Pittsburgh

Outlook: Some motivation tactics gone wrong led to the departure of senior Todd Thomas (72 tackles/6 TFL), but another senior, Anthony Gonzalez, anchors a defense in transition after all-everything DT Aaron Donald moved on to the NFL.

11) Virginia Tech

Outlook: The Hokies lose 174 tackles between the exits of Jack Tyler (100) and Tariq Edwards (74). Fifth-year senior Chase Williams is taking over the middle, playing mostly special teams to this point.

12) Wake Forest

Outlook: On the short end of an anemic offense, Wake Forest was pretty good defensively last season – they return Brandon Chubb, who averaged 6.8 tackles per game.

13) Georgia Tech

Outlook: It’s a new season, so, of course, Georgia Tech has new a defensive scheme, switching to 4-2-5 after flirtations with the 4-3 (2013) and 3-4 (2010-12). Losing a pair of starters, redshirt senior Quayshawn Nealy (66 tackles) leads a group of unknowns in the third look in three seasons.

14) N.C. State

Outlook: Also moving to a 4-2-5, the Wolfpack lose a pair of starters here after giving up 30.2 points a game last season (33.9 in ACC play) on their way to an 0-8 ACC debut for Dave Doeren.

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Comments » 8

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

With Tony Stewart and Stephone Anthony heading up our linebackers and Alexander the top player (maybe) playing corner how can we go wrong. Our defensive line is full of top of line talent and coupled with two possible All-America's at the linebacker position, I just don't see anybody running the ball on us and passing will be like a "day at the zoo in the Tiger den". How can we not be great on defense? We were pretty darn good last year if y'all remember any of the games. Yea, we gave up some yards on busted coverage but, all in all, we had an outstanding defense. The offense will be just as good as last years except no guy like Sammy that could take it all the way on any play he touched the ball. And that's a big loss but we can overcome Sammy moving on.

gamecockg writes:

in response to fasttiger44#293363:

With Tony Stewart and Stephone Anthony heading up our linebackers and Alexander the top player (maybe) playing corner how can we go wrong. Our defensive line is full of top of line talent and coupled with two possible All-America's at the linebacker position, I just don't see anybody running the ball on us and passing will be like a "day at the zoo in the Tiger den". How can we not be great on defense? We were pretty darn good last year if y'all remember any of the games. Yea, we gave up some yards on busted coverage but, all in all, we had an outstanding defense. The offense will be just as good as last years except no guy like Sammy that could take it all the way on any play he touched the ball. And that's a big loss but we can overcome Sammy moving on.

(2)All-America"s at linebacker,a day at the zoo in the tiger den.Offense will be just as good as last year.Fattiger what are you smoking?

Xander5000 writes:

We can not be great on defense only if an offensive minded coach or a coach period can find the holes in our defense and pick us apart. Lord knows I don't want that to happen.....But we still have to deal with Jimbo, Fedora, and ofcourse Spurrier.

MoncksTater writes:

Dirtpecker fans are seriously delusioned these days .
Alright Coot , what makes that group down by the sewer plant make you feel so uppety ?
Good lord , the taste of minor success has got those fools feeling like world beaters. Lol , Alabama mouth w/Vanderbilt Championship banners.

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

in response to gamecockg:

(2)All-America"s at linebacker,a day at the zoo in the tiger den.Offense will be just as good as last year.Fattiger what are you smoking?

You my fried and I use that word very loosly, are like most Lamecocks. You aren't very smart and are certainly not use to a winning football team like we Clemson people are. Enjoy your success while it last because it is coming to a fast halt very soon. And I am eating sour panty rooster right now that taste like something that came out of a Lamecocks hind end. Shame on me for eating the junk. I'm sure you think it is like prime beef from Ruth Chris.

gamecockg writes:

in response to fasttiger44#293363:

You my fried and I use that word very loosly, are like most Lamecocks. You aren't very smart and are certainly not use to a winning football team like we Clemson people are. Enjoy your success while it last because it is coming to a fast halt very soon. And I am eating sour panty rooster right now that taste like something that came out of a Lamecocks hind end. Shame on me for eating the junk. I'm sure you think it is like prime beef from Ruth Chris.

Fat tiger I am a baby boomer and I know a little about football, basketball and baseball because I played and excelled in all of them. Of my friends that are flemson fans, every year before the season starts all you hear is how great flemson is going to be. Then after a few weak ACC games reality sets in and the flags are no where to be seen. Phil Steele has it about right with flemson at #23.

TigerFan95 writes:

in response to gamecockg:

Fat tiger I am a baby boomer and I know a little about football, basketball and baseball because I played and excelled in all of them. Of my friends that are flemson fans, every year before the season starts all you hear is how great flemson is going to be. Then after a few weak ACC games reality sets in and the flags are no where to be seen. Phil Steele has it about right with flemson at #23.

I'm sure your Tiger friends say the same thing about you as well. I would bet all they've heard this time of year since about 2003 is that the Gamecocks were going to win the SEC East and possibly the SEC. Ten years later, where are the trophies?

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

in response to gamecockg:

Fat tiger I am a baby boomer and I know a little about football, basketball and baseball because I played and excelled in all of them. Of my friends that are flemson fans, every year before the season starts all you hear is how great flemson is going to be. Then after a few weak ACC games reality sets in and the flags are no where to be seen. Phil Steele has it about right with flemson at #23.

In over 100 years of playing football, SC has one but one football league title. I don't know how many Clemson has won but I do know we have been to 5 Orange Bowls, one Sugar Bowl and one Cotton Bowl and coutless other lower tier bowls. We have won almost as many bowl games as SC have played in. You got lucky and beat us 5 times in a row but that will end this November. Then things will go back to like it always has been. You are an idiot.

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