Dealing with the noise

Dealing with the noise

CLEMSON - For the last month, No. 13 Clemson has enjoyed life inside the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium.

The run of back to back to back to back home games to kickoff the 2011 campaign ends this weekend when the Tigers travel to one of college football's toughest road venues -- Lane Stadium, for a showdown with No. 11 Virginia Tech.

Just because the surroundings will turn hostile on Saturday, Landon Walker noted two things that won't be any different than they are at Death Valley.

"It's the same football field. We're playing the same game," he said. "The only difference is they're yelling at you. That's fun.

"If you can't take that energy and positively take it and want to do well, to silence the crowd -- that's the funnest thing ever."

Walker, the starting right tackle, is one of several veteran offensive linemen who've played in front of a fair share of tough road crowds -- Florida State in 2008, Georgia Tech and Miami in 2009, Auburn and Florida State in 2010.

"We've played a lot of hard places to play. I think we're used to it," Walker said. "The best thing about it, the young guys are receivers. We don't have a freshman center on the road. We don't have a freshman tackle on the road."

Keeping procedure penalties to a minimum in a loud road environment can be tough sledding for any offensive line, experienced or not.

"Snap count is huge on the road. You saw Florida State this past weekend, there were a couple of veteran guys, veteran tackles who jumped off-sides a couple of times," Walker said.

When the snap count goes silent, as it certainly will on Saturday, it's up to the center to make sure the other four offensive linemen are in time with him.

"It's just something you have to continuously rep," said Dalton Freeman, who's started the last 26 games at center for Clemson.

"We eventually kind of get a feel for each other and we know when to move."

Preparation during the week includes simulated crowd noise through the speakers on the practice field.

"You could start yelling and you wouldn't even hear yourself yell," Freeman said. "It's louder out there than any stadium. They've got a million-watt amp speakers or whatever blasting right on top of us."

Execution of the silent snap count is as much of a mental challenge as it is physically.

"You've got to prepare mentally and be focused in more than you are at home," Walker said. "Watching the ball and watching Dalton's head when he comes up and how long you know he's going to count until he snaps the ball, it's a tremendous amount of focus on the road."

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