Austin Finding Comfort Zone at Center

Austin Finding Comfort Zone at Center

CLEMSON – Looking for all big and tiny aspects that could improve the poor performance of the offensive line, the Clemson coaches have moved Thomas Austin from his comfort zone at right guard to center.

It's a move that has taken weeks to accomplish and now that Austin feels relatively at ease snapping the ball and calling out the blocking assignments, he is the new starting center.

"There's a lot more responsibility as far as points, (line) calls, that sort of stuff," he said. "The footwork is vastly different from guard — there's different steps, different hand placement, different (helmet) placement. It all takes a lot of work."

This is a move that was discussed during the spring, but Austin had a sprained ankle, which allowed Barry Humphries to get all the snaps. As a result, Humphries began fall camp as the starter and lasted through the first five games of the season.

However, through it all, the middle of the struggled mightily, which left the coaching staff scratching their collective heads and searching for answers.

And that led to again trying Austin at center.

He actually started there against Virginia Tech, but only lasted 20 plays there when he had to switch back to his old position due to an injury to Chris McDuffie, which wound up shuffling players around to fill the void.

But in those first few weeks in practice of trying Austin at center, it appeared as though the move wouldn't be able to take place. Austin had major issues in getting the ball to quarterback Cullen Harper.

"Early on, when he started getting reps, the snaps were flying over my head," Harper said. "I had no clue where it was going."

But watching practices on film enabled the staff to figure out why Austin was having so many problems snapping the ball to Harper in the shotgun formation.

"After I tried to step and snap at the same time, I was pulling my head high and sending the ball high," he said. "That was a big problem."

Through tons of practice and extra work, the hiking problem doesn't appear to be a problem any more.

"As time has gone on, I've gotten more and more comfortable with him," Harper said. "When we first started, I was not very comfortable. …

"Every center has a different way they snap the ball. That's why I didn't want to take snaps from anyone other than Barry when he was with the first team. I didn't want to take reps with anyone on the second team. But I'm getting more comfortable with Thomas."

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