By Will Vandervort.
Clemson center Ryan Norton was not going to lie, he said he was hurt a little Thursday when his fellow offensive lineman came in and told his teammates he was leaving the team.
Reserve right tackle Shaq Anthony, who was in close competition with Joe Gore coming into fall camp, walked into head coach Dabo Swinney’s office on Thursday and asked to be released from his scholarship so he could transfer to another school.
Anthony made his decision when it was obvious Gore had won the job to be the Tigers’ starting right tackle.
“It is always very hurtful when one of us has to leave or chooses to leave,” Norton said. “It hurt, but he came and talked to us today and he is going to be fine. Personally, he is going to be fine and that is all that I care about and I’m sure that is all anyone else cares about.
“He is going to be fine wherever he ends up.”
No one is sure where that might be just yet, but odds are it will be at an FCS school. Anthony has not graduated yet, which means he can only play at an FCS or smaller division school if he wanted to play this season so he does not lose a year of eligibility.
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior from nearby Wren High School was redshirted in 2011.
“It is what it is. We support his decision,” Swinney said. “He has done a good job for us since he has been here. Sometimes guys need a change. Sometimes guys want a little more than maybe what is here.
“Hey, we wish him well and we will move on.”
The 16th-ranked Tigers will move on with Gore as the starter, obviously, while right guard Kalon Davis and left guard Eric Mac Lain will slide over to right tackle if need be should something happen to Gore. This was the plan heading into Clemson’s game at No. 12 Georgia on Aug. 30, anyway. Anthony was suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules.
“We have good people that have some experience,” Swinney said. “We don’t have any excuses and we are not making any. We are going to get five (offensive linemen) ready and we are going to play.”
Swinney admitted he was a little taken back when Anthony came and spoke with him on Thursday about his decision.
“I was surprised by the way this situation came about, but hey, that’s just the way it is,” he said. “Guys make decisions and Shaq has handled things the right way and that was his decision. I support that and we will keep rolling.
“We are confident in the guys we have and really pleased with the camp Reid Webster has had. Kalon has continued to show that he can be a solid player for us at tackle and the same thing for Mac Lain so we will just keep moving forward.”
Anthony was Clemson’s top backup at offensive tackle in 2013 as he played in 10 games and had three starts. He took over for the injured Gifford Timothy at one point and logged in 503 snaps last season and recorded eight knockdown blocks.
“I was really surprised about (Anthony’s decision to leave), but that’s his choice and I respect him for that. He is going to be very missed around here,” Norton said.
Anthony started the first game of the 2012 season opener against Auburn because of another Timothy injury. He is the third offensive tackle since the start of last season to either leave the program or retire from football altogether. Timothy and Patrick DeStefano were forced to end their careers last season due to injuries.
Though the Tigers will be a little thin this season at right tackle, help is on the way. Clemson already has commitments from 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt and 4-star tackles Zach Giella and Jake Fruhmorgen.
“We are in good shape,” Swinney said. “I like the guys that are coming to play for the Tigers.”