By Will Vandervort.
Before the season even began linebacker Tony Steward and defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Stephone Anthony was having the type of camp that they had not seen from him.
“He is playing at a high level,” Steward said at the time. “I have never seen anyone play like the way he is playing.”
It’s not like Anthony was a slouch in 2013. He was coming off a year in which he led the Tigers with 131 tackles and made perhaps the play of the year in the 2014 Orange Bowl when he leaped and fell backwards while intercepting Ohio State’s Braxton Miller to seal the victory.
After that play and his 11-tackle performance in the Orange Bowl a lot of people thought Anthony was headed to the NFL. But he returned to Clemson for his senior year and it turned out to be a great decision.
Anthony was projected as a third- to late-round draft choice. By coming back, and having the year that he is having, he has more than likely increased his draft stock.
“I definitely made the right decision and I’m enjoying the game and enjoying playing with my guys,” Anthony said to The (Spartanburg) Herald-Journal. “It don’t get no better than what we’re doing right now. It’s been real fun, a great experience. I guess I’m not exactly satisfied with everything I’m doing and can do a lot better, but it’s definitely been an enjoyable experience for me and I’m soaking it all in.”
Anthony again leads the Tigers in tackles as he has 87 heading in the bowl game, including nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also has 11 quarterback pressures, four passes defended and a one-hand interception that changed the momentum of the game.
The Syracuse play is considered one of the top plays of the year for a Clemson defense that leads the nation in total defense and is ranked in the top 10 in nine other categories.
“I think it’s just our preparation and us getting really focused on our opponent and taking the time to study the game,” Anthony said. “Coach Venables has done things that’s helped us in certain ways and we’ve adjusted and it’s playing out for us. He’s had more flexibility in the playbook with trusting us a lot more.”
Earlier in the week, Anthony joined defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and defensive end Vic Beasley on the All-ACC First-Team Defense. He was also named to the roster for next month’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He will be joined by Jarrett and defensive end Corey Crawford in the All-Star Game.
The senior will have to sit out the first two quarters of the bowl game after being disqualified from the South Carolina game for a targeting call on Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson late in the third quarter.