2008 Focus: Anthony Garner

SILER CITY, N.C. -- While visiting one local school, an assistant coach made a suggestion on which player might be the best in the region.

"Have you had a chance to check out the defensive tackle at Jordan-Matthews yet," the assistant asked. "If not, go down there and see Anthony Garner. He's a rising senior and plays three sports for them... I even think he plays tennis.

"When we played them, he was a one-man wrecking crew. Garner was almost impossible for us to block... he caused us problems all night long."

Garner didn't just do it to this team. The 6-foot-1, 295-pound defensive tackle ripped up opposing offensive lines, as he finished his junior season with 90 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, and 13 sacks. Jordan-Matthews tallied an 11-2 record with a loss in the playoffs at Cherryville. Although his stats jump out, Garner admits he can do better.

"I did alright, but I could have went harder on every play," said Garner. "That's what I want to work on. Every play I want to get to that quarterback. That's what I'm trying to do on every play. I use my feet and strength to push the lineman into the backfield so I can get to the quarterback."

"He makes some big-time plays," said Jordan-Matthews head coach Marty Scotten. "Sometimes the guy in front of him just has no shot of blocking him. He'll just go right through him. There are times when he's really dominant, and nobody really blocked him well all year.

"Sometimes he's like a lot of big kids when he doesn't play hard all the time, but when he brings it there is nobody in our league that can handle him one-on-one. There's times he just busts through there right at the snap, and you will see that on the film."

In fact, Garner tries to model his game after one of the ACC's top defensive linemen.

"Tank Tyler from NC State is who I look up to," he said. "I love that dude. I like the way he goes hard every play and stays low. He's only about 6'1 or 6'2, but he stays low and he clears everybody out the way when he tries to get to the quarterback."

Garner's biggest assets are his strength, quickness, and a knack for making a game-changing play at just the right time.

I think he moves real well for a guy that has his kind of size," said Scotten. "He's between 290 and 300 pounds, and he has really good feet and great lateral movement. He is very strong, but his natural athleticism and quickness stick out. We don't play him both ways, but I think he would be a great offensive lineman because of how well he moves. Like I said earlier, he can be dominant."

Garner bench presses 350 pounds and has recently been timed at 5.0 in the 40-yard dash. He just completed the basketball season where he served as the Jets' top reserve on the varsity team. A two-year member of the school's tennis team, Garner will now turn his attention to track this spring. He chooses to stay active for a variety of reasons.

"I like playing a lot of sports," he said. "It helps me stay in shape, and it keeps my feet real good. It keeps me from getting lazy when I'm not playing football too.

"I have played tennis, but I'm running track this season. We're trying to win states this year, so they wanted me to come out and throw the shot put for them. That's what I'm working on."

Jordan-Matthews High is a small school in Siler City, North Carolina that plays in the 1-A Yadkin Valley Conference. Garner's coaches knew schools wouldn't be real familiar with him early on, so they just started sending out film from his junior season and the response has been positive. Although no official offers have been mailed out, NC State, North Carolina, East Carolina, and Tennessee are all in pursuit.

"State's recruiting me hard and so is ECU and Tennessee," said Garner. "[North] Carolina just called... I just came back from ECU this weekend."

Garner headed up to Greenville for East Carolina's annual Junior Day.

"It was alright," he said. "I liked it. It was pretty cool... everybody was up there. I met one dude from Northwood, Kemorry Mann. I talked to him... I think he's their offensive guard."

Despite the recent visit, the Pirates currently trail the Wolfpack, Volunteers, and Tar Heels for Garner. One program holds an early advantage.

"I like State," said Garner. "State is my #1 right now. Tennessee, I like them. I don't know much about them yet, but they are recruiting me. I want to get up there and check them out... I know watching them on TV they are always hyped up. Carolina just started recruiting me, and they are right there with Tennessee. Those are the three I like the most right now."

What does Garner like about NC State?

"I just like being up there," he said. "I like the campus and everything about it. They told me that they are going to work with me. I went up there and met the new coaches, and they really like me. Each coach wrote something to me and they told me how much they wanted me up there."

Garner made the drive to Raleigh for the Wolfpack's Junior Day. NC State defensive line coach Keith Willis certainly made an impression.

"I went up to State for their Junior Day," he said. "I liked it a lot up there. I got to meet with the coaches some more, and I really like the defensive line coach. Getting to talk to him, that showed me a lot about what they want to do on defense and how they do stuff a lot like the way we do things around here."

Coach Scotten stated that he believed an offer was on the way from the previous NC State coaching staff, and the new staff under Tom O'Brien is seriously interested in the in-state talent. Most schools want to get Garner in camp, and he plans on camping at NC State, North Carolina, East Carolina, and Tennessee. He will also attend the Ragsdale Shrine Bowl Combine.

According to his head coach, the camp/combine circuit will be huge for Garner's recruitment.

"In college he'll probably play a nose or three-technique inside," said coach Scotten. "His ability to get off blocks I think is what's really going to be the difference for him. He's got good closing speed, and I think that's the thing that impresses you the most when you see him on film.

"I think his best football is ahead of him. He's not really played much organized football, and it's going to be interesting to see how he does when the competition is as big as he is."

Garner plans on taking his recruitment very slow.

"I think I'm going to wait some time," he said. "I want to see what all comes in. I don't want to commit and then end up making the wrong choice, so I think I'm going to wait."

A solid student in the classroom, Garner already projects as a full academic qualifier.

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