LSU’s Andre Anthony embraces sixth season as chance to reach potential

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LSU defense at Vanderbilt
Andre Anthony during the first half of a game between LSU and Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.

Second chances don’t come around often on the SEC football landscape. LSU defensive end Andre Anthony enters his sixth season with the Tigers after following a path which took numerous twists and turns.

Arriving on campus in the 2016 class, he was ruled ineligible his initial season. Anthony previously played at Miller-McCoy Academy before transferring to Edna Karr. Somehow the transcripts did not translate entering LSU. He then suffered a season-ending injury early in year two.

Anthony was buried on the depth chart the following two seasons. Such disappointments could test anyone’s mettle and it would have been easy for him to pull up stakes and seek greener pastures. Andre persevered. The staff also never lost hope.

Set to turn 25 years old this November, Anthony decided to take advantage of an NCAA opportunity allowing players to gain an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID 19 pandemic following deep reflection.

“I came back (from injury), but it was hard because I had been out for so long. Then there was the National Championship (season). I learned watching the veterans. Last year was my time to step up and I made the most of the opportunity.”

Andre arrived in Baton Rouge as a 205 pounder with 4.55 speed. He has grown into a 6-3, 255-pound threat off the edge.

In 10 contests and eight starts last year, Anthony paced the team with 5.5 sacks, good for sixth in the SEC, and made 5.5 tackles for loss. Two of his sacks came in a road win over Arkansas that helped spur the Tigers to three victories of the final four games.

Anthony returned to Baton Rouge for another opportunity to elevate his game to a higher level. He is fine tuning his skills. “As a pass rusher I want to be more versatile, pass rush moves. Getting more flexibility, doing more yoga, just taking care of my body. This is my last year.”

LSU fell shy of their team goals in 2020 with a 5-5 record in large part because of a 13th rated defense in the SEC in yards allowed that tied for 10th in points given up (34.9/game).

Redemption is an obvious theme for the Tigers defensively. Anthony has motivation to reach his greatest heights as a player with the extra opportunities ahead.

“It goes back to last season,” Anthony stated. “Seizing the opportunity. It was my time. I worked hard during this offseason, this is my time. I have to take advantage of it. My teammates have stayed on me. I know it’s the next man up. Once I started getting a feel for the game, filling in the role as a leader. I stepped into the role. I embraced it. They love me. I’m embracing going into it. I’m just glad that we have an offseason and a spring to see where we are as a team and as a defense.”

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron vowed to tailor the coaching staff to be more aligned to the ages, styles and backgrounds of the players. Young and hip assistants have breathed new life into the program.

New defensive coordinator Daronte Jones is 42 years old, offensive coordinator Jake Peetz is 37, passing game coordinator D.J. Mangas is 31, linebackers coach Blake Baker is 38 years old and defensive line coach Andre Carter is 42.

Carter, a 13-year NFL veteran, carries his intensity from his playing days over to his coaching style. It spills over to his players.

“We love it because we can relate to it. Off the field, Andre has still got some game left in him. Coaches like that, we love that,” Anthony explained. “They give us energy. They know how we are, know how we feel. They bring so much energy to the team and we feed off of them.”

Both sides of the ball have turned the page with a slightly different approach. Accountability has been stressed since January with eyes towards the fall.

“The main thing was communication,” Anthony stressed. “That was a big thing that we lacked. Last year everyone was on different pages. Now that we have the spring; I want to take full advantage of it. I want to see where we are as a defense and bring what we lacked last year, which was communication. We can communicate better.”

Senior defensive end Ali Gaye (6-6, 262) was projected as a second or third day pick the 2021 NFL Draft but returned for another bite at the apple. He contributed 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks last season.

As a tandem, Anthony and Gaye could form a dangerous edge pass rushing threat. “We’ve just trying to build off of last year,” Anthony said.” We know what we need to work on. We know what we’re good at. Now it’s just building on it and taping into the next level. We stay on top of each other every day. We don’t let anything slide. Me and Ali go back and forth. He’s not going to let me slide. If I miss a play, he’s on me. We expect more out of each other. Coach Carter holds us accountable for everything.”

The defensive line will not be alone among Tigers asked to attack.

“Pressure…you won’t know where it’s coming from. It could be the DBs, it could be the interior (line), the safeties; you just really don’t ever know and it’s coming from all different directions. One certain play we may not bring anything at all, just to keep the offense on their toes.”

The ability for LSU to be aggressive defensively, however, will only go as far as how well the players can gel as a unit that made far too many mistakes last season.

“Basically it will go as far as we want it to go if guys get in their playbooks, learn what they have to learn. We can do anything and everything under the sun.  We can change all kinds of looks. We can disguise anything. We are looking forward to being multiple. You won’t be able to game plan for what we’re going to be able to do because (opponents) won’t know what they’re going to get.”

If any of the Tigers is focused on embracing the chance to elevate themselves and the program in 2021, it’s Andre Anthony.

“It has been a journey for me. I am very humble about it. I’m proud of it. I’ve been through some stuff. I am proud of myself. Coach O has been on this journey with me. I’ve embraced it.”

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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