Players Only

CLEMSON - Whenever a season starts out like this, there are bound to be players who step up to try and turn the ship around. This year, it turns out that player is Thomas Austin.

Without question, Austin has been a leader for the Tigers throughout offseason workouts and into the actual season itself, but after Saturday's loss to Maryland the Camden native had just about seen enough.

It was time to do something, and do it quick. So he called a players-only meeting on Tuesday.

No coaches, just Austin talking about what had transpired up to this point in the season and what lies directly ahead.

"It was just a heart-to-heart with the players with where I thought we were this year," he told after Wednesday's practice. "The coaches have done a good job motivating us but I think ultimately it's got to be coming from the players. There's a lot of stuff out there in the press about us and you just have to kind of put blinders on and get through it.

"For me, it was all the expectations going into the season and now we're 3-2 with a conference loss and people are starting to throw us under the bus. We've got a lot of football ahead of us and I wanted to remind everybody of that."

The Tigers had Monday off due to the off-week, which means that was the first day all season Austin likely had to fully absorb what had already taken place. He said the idea originated after he had a long day Monday to think about things, and also after he received a call from his father.

"Monday was a long day for me" he said. "Sunday you kind of put it behind yourself and I was with my wife. But my dad called me and encouraged me and shot me some scripture verses. It was just something I needed to get done."

And now with five games of the 2008 season behind the team, Austin knows what comes next- a tough game with Wake Forest next Thursday night followed by an equally as tough game against Georgia Tech just 10 days later.

"This is a must-win for us," he said. "Absolutely. There's not a whole lot of room for error for us and we've practice with that mindset. This is the perfect time for us with the bye week because it gives us 12 days to prepare for Wake Forest and Georgia Tech."

And hopefully for Austin and the Tigers, Tuesday's players-only meeting will be a big step in the right direction.

"I think guys were focused on what I said. I got a great response afterwards," he said. "We are a band of brothers. I'm hurting and I know everybody else is hurting so I wanted to know we are all on the same page and we are in this thing together."

LAMBERT TRIES A NEW POSITION: With all of the injuries on the offensive line this season, there's been a merry-go-round of sorts on the offensive line through the first five games. Wednesday that continued when the Clemson coaching staff elected to try tackle Cory Lambert at left guard Tuesday.

The move comes after the emergence of redshirt freshman Landon Walker at right tackle, a position Lambert has played a good part of the season.

"He [Landon] had his best game Saturday," offensive line coach Brad Scott said. "We probably played our best game up front. It wasn't quite good enough but you can tell the experience is starting to pay off for them a little bit.

"Landon has done a good job and I'll leave him over at right tackle right now. [Chris] Hairston is probably practicing two-thirds of the time right now. [We] messed around with Lambert in at guard some to see what my best five might be. We'll go from there and I have to go and look at the tape and see how it works out.

"But if Hairston is back and healthy ... Cory had a nice game last week too ... he played well. Landon played well. Those are three of my best five right. So the best way to get them on the field may be for Lambert to get some reps at guard."

Lambert has never played at guard in his career, but Scott said he already knows all of the calls and combination blocks so the transition shouldn't be too difficult, especially during an off-week.

"I don't really have a lot of choices right now at guard," Scott said. "So he's a good one."

Clemson continues to be without the services of Barry Humphries, who remains out with a partially torn ACL, and also David Smith, who has a severe ankle sprain.

Neither player is expected to be available for the Wake Forest game in eight days.

Lambert said of the move, "I could go back to right tackle but Landon is doing such a great job over there you don't want to mess up a good thing. The coaches just want to see if something else works."

QUICK HITS: DT Rashaad Jackson will also be unavailable for the Wake Forest game, in addition to Barry Humphries [green jersey Wednesday] and David Smith. Jackson suffered a quad injury during preseason camp and has yet to play in a game this season. ... The Tigers also held a redshirt scrimmage Wednesday, reportedly CB Xavier Brewer, RB Andre Ellington and QB Jon Richt all played well. Top Stories