By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
When Clemson’s offense takes the field against Wake Forest on Saturday in Death Valley, Shaq Anthony will be the player stationed at right tackle.
His situation now is a far cry from what it was a season ago, when things seemed to hit rock bottom in a hurry.
He was in line for a reserve role on the offensive line for the Tigers in 2012 and saw some action early in the season. In early October, however, things changed.
Anthony fell out of favor with the coaching staff for a variety of reasons. Earlier this week, Dabo Swinney outlined the process that caused the former Wren High product to lose his playing time.
According to Swinney, Anthony began to drop some weight and lose focus. His grades became an issue, and eventually he was ruled academically ineligible for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU.
Anthony could have gone into a shell and retreated from his past, even giving up altogether. Instead, he embraced his situation and set his sights on improving his stock within the program once he was welcomed back.
“At the end of the day, I put myself in this position,” Anthony said. “I knew what this was going to be like.”
“Sometimes, with a coach, you have to lose to win,” Anthony said. “I just made sure that I was very respectful and that I knew what I was doing whenever I got my chance to go out there.”
Family provided ample support as Anthony struggled to handle his demotion as well as he could. During the spring, the sophomore began the process of building trust with the staff again. Anthony’s teammates saw his efforts and approved, and eventually, offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell did too.
Less than a year after privately wondering whether he would ever don a Clemson uniform again, Anthony heard his name called when Gifford Timothy was ruled out of the N.C. State game with a concussion after one series. Many backups might have been overwhelmed by the moment, but Anthony says he made sure he was ready to go.
“You always have to be prepared,” he said. “You have to attack every game like you’re starting, and that’s kind of my mindset most of the time.”
Now, with Timothy still ailing and Isaiah Battle suspended, Anthony will get a start on Homecoming against the Demon Deacons. He is still a work in progress, a fact that no one—from coordinator Chad Morris down to the offensive graduate assistants—would bother to dispute.
Anthony says much of his gains have been made on the run-blocking side of playing tackle. After playing in a spread attack in high school, the straight-ahead blocking necessary for Morris’ blockers to succeed does not come easily for him.
Although paving the way on running plays has come along, Anthony admits he is still in his element trying to protect the pocket against a pass rush.
“That’s what I love to do,” he said. “That’s what I’m better at because I have quick feet. But run blocking is something I’m trying to step up.”
At this point, Anthony is just excited to be on the field. His reclamation project will take a major step forward this weekend, when he makes his way onto the Memorial Stadium turf for Clemson’s first offensive snap of the game.