Sideline motivates Anthony

CLEMSON – Dabo Swinney believes that, "sometimes, it takes a little inspiration to get the transformation that you need."

What was Stephone Anthony's inspiration last fall? Simple.

"His inspiration," Swinney said, "was the sideline."

It was a true shock to Anthony's system. After six games as Clemson's starting middle linebacker, the former five-star recruit lost his role to unheralded junior Spencer Shuey, starting only one of the Tigers' final seven games.

As Clemson prepares for Aug. 31's much-anticipated season-opening top-10 showdown against Georgia, Anthony is back in his old starting role, and better for the experience. 2012's experience taught him a valuable lesson.

"I learned you're not nearly as good as you think you are," he said. "I'm growing and trying to be the best I can be. The great thing about this game, you get humbled real quick. You get humbled and keep growing."

Fans likely expected more growth by now from Anthony, who was part of 2011's national signing day bonanza which also included fellow five-star linebacker recruit Tony Steward inking with Clemson.

While Steward has been held back by a pair of torn ACLs, inconsistency has kept Anthony down. He had 36 tackles in his first five starts of 2012, but midway through the Georgia Tech game, he was pulled in favor of Shuey, who wound up making a game-changing safety in a 47-31 win. Coaches elected to use the hot hand, and Shuey went on to start each of the next seven games, making 73 tackles in that span.

Meanwhile, Anthony mostly watched.

He had 26 tackles in the final seven games, and played a total of 20 snaps against N.C. State, South Carolina and LSU, including none against the archrival Gamecocks.

"He kind of maybe lost his edge a little bit," Swinney said. "He was not quite as focused last year, and didn't work as hard as he needed to in the film room."

It wasn't ideal, but what could Anthony do?

"It was difficult to adjust to, but which guy's better the one who will play? That's the guy," he said. "You accept that. It humbled you, but you just keep going. One step at a time, you've got to keep growing."

This offseason, Anthony responded with hard work. What did he have to improve?

"Everything," he said. "Everything. As far as watching film, got to do more. Extra running, got to do more. Extra lifting, got to do more. Just got to keep working."

Swinney noticed a major difference this spring.

"He's been awesome," Swinney said. "All spring he came back really focused, hungry, and had a great spring, has had a great camp, and he's really become a leader out there. What we expected Stephone Anthony to do going into his junior year. That guy right there is on a mission. Hopefully he'll continue to do that get the results we want on the field."

With Tig Willard graduated, Shuey is working outside at "Will" linebacker while Anthony works ahead of Kellen Jones and B.J. Goodson in the middle. He refuses to call himself a frontrunner, saying "I'm competing every day."

And that's the way he likes it. It's hard work, but Anthony seems to be enjoying himself this summer.

After all, starting is far better than the sidelines.

"I'm having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it. It's not a burden," he said. "I'm doing it for the team.

"It's a learning curve, man. Some people are ready to take that step and play, some people are not. I just feel a lot better. I feel a lot more comfortable, that's it. That's the biggest change – I'm having fun."

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