Tiger D well aware of Newton

CLEMSON - The recruiting rankings don't always make the player. Just ask redshirt junior Andre Branch.

He had 11 tackles in 143 snaps as a redshirt freshman in 2008. His snap total more than doubled a year later as Branch racked up 46 tackles, including 11 for loss, along with a pair of sacks.

Through two games this season, he leads Clemson in tackles for loss (four) and sacks (three).

Impressive work for a guy who Scout.com rated as a two-star defensive end out of Varina High School in Richmond, Va. back in 2007.

After the departure of Ricky Sapp, Branch has grabbed hold of the bandit end position and become the most versatile member of Clemson's defensive front.

"I've been underrated my whole life. That's nothing to me. I never followed the stars in high school," Branch said. "I just went out there and played every game. When I got here, I already knew what time it was with that.

"I just wanted to show the people who Andre Branch is…once I got here, I had to show people the whole star thing goes out the window."

Although Saturday's trip to Auburn is easily the biggest challenge on the first quarter of the schedule, he downplayed the significance of the game.

"It's just the next game. Every game is the biggest game," Branch said.

Dual threat quarterback Cameron Newton is the most physically imposing quarterback Branch and the rest of the Clemson defense will see all season. Newton, all 6-foot-6, 250 pounds of him, is similar in size to Branch, who's listed at 6-5, 265 pounds.

"Cameron Newton, he's definitely big in size. If we do our job, we should be able to handle him," Branch said.

Easier said than done, especially when Newton's running high-octane, misdirection, spread option offense under Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

The name of the game Saturday for the Clemson defense is disciplined football.

"Sometimes it's kind of hard. Being an edge rusher, you always have that certain play when you want to have the pass rush ready," Branch said. "If you lose your lanes, it can be hectic, especially with a dual threat quarterback like [Newton]. We just have to keep our assignments."

He admitted that would be a challenge down on The Plains.

"With Auburn, they have so much going on with all those great athletes they have. You can't just think something. You have to know and just do your assignment with that," Branch said. "Because Cameron Newton, if you mess up once, you might be out of the box."

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