Clemson's worst fears were realized Sunday when senior middle linebacker Anthony Waters was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and was lost for the season.
The injury could mean the end of his college career.
"You hate to see that for Anthony, seeing all the hard work
that he's put in," coach Tommy Bowden told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Waters, the ACC's top returning tackler from 2005, is the second Tigers linebacker lost to injury. Senior outside linebacker Tramaine Billie broke his ankle during preseason camp and is expected to miss the first half of the season.
Waters, considered the emotional leader of Clemson's defense, was injured late in the third quarter of Saturday's 54-6 win over Florida Atlantic. He was carried off the field by teammates, then taken to the locker room on a cart.
"He's an experienced guy," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "He has great intensity and that kind of rubbed off. He's a vocal leader. Those are all the benefits of having a fifth-year senior. You lose some things you can't replace."
Waters nearly entered the NFL draft after his junior season and had 179 tackles the past two seasons.
"This is difficult to accept with this being my senior year,"
Waters said in a statement issued by Clemson's athletic department.
"I will just have to do whatever I can to help this team from the
sidelines from a leadership standpoint this year."
Waters said he's watched players like Clemson defensive lineman
Donnell Clark and Florida State's Antonio Cromartie overcome the
"It is certainly not doom and gloom" for Waters' NFL chances,
Bowden said the school would also examine whether Waters could
receive a medical waiver for a sixth season, but was not hopeful he
Waters' backup is redshirt freshman Kavell Conner, who had three tackles in his first college game on Saturday.
The No. 18 Tigers, a popular choice to challenge Florida State in the ACC's Atlantic Division, play consecutive road games at Boston College on Saturday, followed by a game against the No. 11 Seminoles in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sept. 16.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.