June 12, 2004

Clemson's camp makes big splash with Austin

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Early Saturday evening highly touted offensive lineman Thomas Austin of Camden arrived back home from Clemson where he had spent the last several days at camp, an experience that made quite an impression on the 6-foot-4, 271-pounder. There’s just one, possibly two more unofficial visits remaining for Austin, and it’s commitment time. But first, an extensive update on what took place in upstate South Carolina this past week.

This spring we’ve touted Austin as the state’s No. 2 rated offensive lineman, a proportional selection considering his current standing and overall upside.

Austin, who has quick feet and better than average mobility, is broad shouldered, showing that he may have the frame to comfortably add on another 25-35 pounds. And at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds in a couple of years, the Camden star projects to be quite a force on the offensive front at the division I-A level.

Though getting to that level requires a verbal commitment, first, a step that Austin came closer taking this past week at Clemson, since it was possibly his next to last unofficial visit of the summer before he makes a pledge.

“I worked pretty hard at Clemson this week, and my legs are tired, so I want to rest up for a couple of weeks. I’m going to Auburn’s one-day camp on July 14th. That might be it, though I might go to Vanderbilt, too,” said Austin early Saturday evening.

The 271-pounder has official scholarship offers from Penn State, Clemson, South Carolina, Maryland, Army and Vanderbilt. Georgia Tech and Notre Dame have been close to offering, and Auburn may move in with an offer as well.

But this past week Clemson upped its stock with Austin, moving up to No. 1. In fact Saturday was the first time Austin had publicly cited a favorite this spring.

“I told Coach (Tommy) Bowden at Clemson that Clemson was my No. 1 choice. I had a good chance to talk to him, just me and him, and I thought he was very personable. He reassured me that Clemson wanted me to be a part of their program, and that there was no rush in me making a decision. I wasn’t nervous at all when I talked with him. He was very nice, and even asked about my sister’s wedding. She got married on May 29th,” said Austin.

“I just loved it at Clemson. I love it up there. It’s a beautiful campus, the facilities are great, and they’re building with the West Zone project. I met their head strength and conditioning coach (Joey Batson), and I thought he was a great guy. You can trust him. The coaches were great. I’ve talked to several of them. I don’t have any disagreements with them, especially Coach (Brad) Scott. He has been my recruiter, and he would be my position coach if I went up there.”

Scott and the Tigers have turned up the heat on Austin over the last two months, recruiting him harder than any other staff to date.

“I’ve hit it off well with Clemson and with Coach Scott. Now, he’s a hard coach. He’s a very physical type of coach, and he demands a lot. But he’s fair, and he’s very honest. He’s not hypocritical. He knows technique well, and he’s very precise. He pays a lot of attention to the smallest details. Sometimes he’ll spend 15 minutes on the smallest things, but those things are still very important.”

“Coach Scott told me what they had done with recruiting offensive linemen. He said they had offered three offensive linemen in-state, me, Barry Humphries (6-3, 291) and Jamarcus Grant (6-5, 320). He said that they had already gotten a commitment from Barry Humphries, and that they were going to take just one more inside guy, hopefully me. Then he mentioned that they were trying to get Jamarcus Grant to commit. He said they were starting to focus on getting a 6-foot-5, 6’6 tackle, and that they were looking in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Coach Bowden had told me that they were going to sign four offensive linemen, maybe five.”

As for the rest of his choices, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Army may be on the outside looking in, as Austin, currently, has no plans to take unofficial visits to those campuses. The talented lineman cited a schedule conflict as to why he was unable to take an unofficial visit to South Carolina earlier this spring.

“Both Clemson and Auburn have similar campuses. And I’ve always liked Auburn. I’ll probably leave on July 13th to go down there, and take in their one-day camp on July 14th, then come back on the 15th. My mom or dad will go with me, I’m sure.”

But for now, and for Clemson, it appears everything is in good standing with the state’s top offensive guard prospect.

“I just fit in well with Clemson’s scheme. I know their offense because it’s similar to what we’ve run here at Camden. Coach (Jimmy) Neal is here right now. (Neal was at Austin’s home Saturday when he returned from Clemson). I think Clemson would probably use me as a guard, but Coach Scott did say that he would like to possibly move me to center to get a shot there. I’ve played center before, so that would not be a problem. I played that position in middle school.”

This week Austin was also aware of Clemson’s bumper crop of new verbal commitments, headlined by Bennettsville-Marlboro County stud wide receiver Rendrick Taylor (6-2, 210).

“I actually talked with Rendrick Taylor. He talked to Coach Bowden right before I did. He told me when he came out that he had just committed. They got a receiver from Alabama (Tyler Grisham), and they got a commitment from a defensive back in Atlanta, Ray-Ray (Ramon McElrathbey) I believe his name was. I think they’re close with Jamarcus Grant, too.”

This summer Austin hopes to spend some time at Camden High where he’ll help work a camp with former Bulldog lineman Vonnie Holliday, a former three-star rated selection in his own right.

“I’m lifting weights, and I’ll be working with the camp that he puts on. Right now my first priority is Camden High.”

Though following a visit on the Plains this July 14th, the highly regarded Austin may quickly, just briefly, shift his focus towards ending his recruiting. And at least on the surface, it appears he may choose between Clemson and Auburn (we project Auburn to offer).

So what happens between now and July 14th?

“Oh, I’ll rest for a couple of weeks if I can. I want to rest my legs. I think I put on about six pounds while I was at Clemson. It seems like all we did was practice and eat. We had buffet - pizza, salads, roast beef, chicken. Everyday they had something a little different."

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