Spotlight on ... Thomas Austin

CLEMSON - Looking for one of the key players in Saturday night's game against No. 24 Alabama? Look no further than starting center Thomas Austin.

CUTigers.com checks in with Clemson's starting center as the 2008 season opener is now only two days away:

Thomas, what does the Alabama defense do specifically that could hurt you guys Saturday? We've heard they run a 3-4 scheme but it's really more like the 4-3 here at Clemson. Your thoughts?
Austin: Typical first game. There's not a whole lot of film on them. They are young like we are. Based on the depth chart, they are moving some guys around. The moved the nose to d-end. They have a junior college transfer at nose now, who's pretty big. They line up in an odd [formation] and will try to stop the run. We are going to have our work cut out for us. They are athletic and because they are young they will roll a lot of guys [in and out]. Coach Saban is known for multiple defensive looks. We expect everything ... everything you can imagine.

With so much uncertainty as far as what to expect from their line, doesn't that put a tremendous amount of pressure on you to make the right calls and help your younger guys on the line out?
Austin: Yeah, there's pressure. But, the good thing is, during camp, you try to work every different look you can. Doing that it helps you be able to work on the exceptions to the rule more. We can work on blitz packages and stunts more. We all have to be on the same page. We have a game plan going into the game but when you get in the game, but a lot of times you get thrown something new and you just have to adapt to it.

Does it help that 'Bama has the equivalent of a bandit end and that you've been going up against that unit in practice?
Austin: Oh yeah. Our defense plays a lot of odd as well. We expect to get that from them. Having Coach Koenning throw us a bunch of different looks has helped us a lot during camp because we know we'll get a lot of different looks Saturday night.

What do you think is going to happen Saturday with your starting five?
Austin: Well we know we are going to have to play a lot of snaps. We're young but the guys behind us are even younger. So we know that we have to play a lot. We don't know exactly what to expect in the first game because you always see stuff you aren't ready for. Being able to make adjustments on the field will be crucial for us. Being able to come off the field and make adjustments and do things on the fly will be crucial.

Are you more comfortable as one of the leaders as this unit knowing you've got redshirt juniors around you for this game, instead of redshirt freshmen?
Austin: Yeah, I've played with Barry [Humphries] and Jamarcus [Grant]. We came in as freshmen together so there is definitely some chemistry there. Mason [Cloy] had done a great job of stepping up and he's a smart guy. Since he's come up as a center, he knows the defense very well. That helps. Barry as well, he's played center and that makes a difference.

Their big nose guard - Cody- he's over 365 pounds but I've heard he can do 360 dunks on the basketball court?
Austin: He can probably rip trees out of the roots too. I know he's a big man. We expect him to be a big run-stopper. It's a good challenge for me. It will be fun to see what kind of matchup that will be.

How do you try to matchup against a guy like that?
Austin: The good thing is I've been going against Dorell Scott the last couple of years and he's a heckuva player. Brandon Thompson is the same thing. He's a little shorter and stockier but he's got a lot of weight on him. There's not a whole of people that weigh that much so we'll see.

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