SUNSET, S.C.— Former five-star recruit and Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina Tavien Feaster understood when he entered the Clemson program that he would have to wait his turn behind the most decorated and most productive running back in the history of Clemson football- Wayne Gallman.
However, it could be that season of watching and learning that pays off for Feaster as he looks to improve upon a freshman season that saw him earn the Tigers’ Future Impact Player award at their season ending awards banquet.
“I think the best thing that happened to him was that he had Wayne Gallman and Wayne Gallman wanted to mentor him.,” running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “So, they sat next to each other in the meeting every day. They spent a lot of time together. They spent a lot of time together.
“Wayne was always looking out for him and that’s what let me know that he had the right makings, he just has to be developed and shaped and molded—because he did come in with a humble attitude. He did understand that he was going to have to work, and I think when he hit that field for the first time that these boys up here can play. They’re big, they’re fast, they’re strong and it’s not going to be quite as easy for him. And I think once we get his body where it needs to be, I think you’re going to see that ease of play that made him so special in high school.”
Feaster produced 222 rushing yards last season—third on the team—on 37 carries over 12 games, and showed flashes of his skills as he amassed squad-best 6.0 yards per carry.
However, for most five-star recruits, the task of entering a program and not being “the guy” would be a tough pill to swallow after spending their high school career being the big-man-on-campus. But for Feaster, it was his humility and willingness to learn that impressed the coaching staff more than his play on the field.
“I understand, and what I’ve told Feaster’s we’re building for the long haul. We’re not building for short-term success and confidence is critical,” Elliott said. “You’ve seen instances where guys have been given something too early, where they’re not ready for it—not prepared for it—and it damages their confidence. And so, I wanted to take the time and have a situation in Wayne to take the time to lay that foundation—the right foundation.
“I want him to be the best that’s ever come through, and he’s one of the few that you can say has that ability, but there were some things that we had to develop just from a mental standpoint to get him there. It’s not that he didn’t want it, he didn’t have it—it’s just he didn’t know how. He hadn’t been asked to do it until this point. Now we are in a situation where we can ask him to do it, and I’m excited to see what his future looks like.”
And if spring practice and summer workouts in the weight room are any indication, Feaster’s future looks incredibly bright.
In the Tigers’ annual spring game, Feaster finished the game with 21 yards on only five carries—third among all of the running backs on the split-squad—however, he finished the game leading the running back group with 4.2 yards per carry.
And with the success on the fields comes the confidence that he had in high school, when he was the No. 1 running back in the nation (247 Sports).
“Feasters just walking around with that confidence and that swagger back when he was a senior in high school, because he knew he was the guy,” Elliott said. “Now, he knows that he has put in the work, he’s seen what it looks—what it takes—to be successful. He’s been in the weight room. He’s starting to see his weight room numbers increase—his weight is up to 220-pounds. So, we’re just starting to see a lot more confidence.”
However, the journey is not over for the talented running back—as the Tigers prepare to make a run toward another College Football Playoff appearance, there is still a great deal of work to do if he expects to see his playing time increase.
“Pass protection and being able to identify a defense without someone else telling him what to do,” Elliott said. “Being able to understand and recognize a 4-down front, 3-down front, an Okie front—all these different fronts, because every time they change a small alignment in that defensive line it changes who we’re targeting to in pass protection. One is just that, being able to pick that up without someone having to tell you—instantly. And then also, being able to execute the technique that you need to in pass protection.
“We ask our guys to do a lot in pass protection—they don’t get a whole lot of help from the offensive line. That’s what makes us play as fast as we do and be as dynamic as we are—that position absorbs a lot responsibility in pass protection. Then just be consistent in practice, hard, every single play, every single day, because I’m a firm believer that if you practice a bad habit, that bad habit will show up at the most inopportune time that you want.”