CLEMSON—Sometimes it takes a season of humility to show a player that there is work to do before they can contribute to a team.
This would be the case for sophomore running back Tavien Feaster, who entered the Tigers’ program as one of the most highly decorated running back recruits since C.J. Spiller—with whom he shares a jersey number, as he spent last season relegated to mostly special teams, and mop-up duty in games that were already well in hand.
It was at the end of last season that Feaster realized if he wants to be a contributor on the 2017 team, and not just a role player, he would have to change somethings—both mentally and physically—during the summer.
“Thinking coming off my freshman season, I come out high school All-American and things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to my freshman year,” Feaster said. “So, something had to change. And you’ve got to be mentally tough before you are physically tough. I’m a product of my environment. I grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It’s a tough city to live in—I’m just built like that.”
Once he felt he was mentally ready to compete, then came the second part—making sure that he was physically ready, adding an additional 12 pounds of muscle and weighing in at 222 pounds this season, up from 210 where he ended last year.
“The decision was easy. I knew that I needed to be a little more physical in my game, so I decided to put on a little more weight and that came with the summer weightlifting too,” Feaster said. “I was getting stronger, so I decided to add some more weight to add more power to my game.
“I knew I had to be more powerful. You’ve got to pass block here, and also running the ball you’ve got to be a little more powerful at the college level. So, I decided that I’m going to get as strong as I can this summer and see where it takes me.”
With the added muscle to his nearly six-foot frame, Feaster believes that he is mentally and physically ready to show the college football world that he is no longer just a running back with elite speed, he has the power to match.
“My mindset, my mindset has changed. I’m not all about trying to get to the sidelines,” Feaster said. “Am I going to get hit too hard, anything like that. It’s either give a lick or take the lick, and so I’m going to get them before they get me. That’s just my mindset.
With the departure of last season’s starting running back Wayne Gallman to the New York Giants, there is an understanding that Feaster has the opportunity to not only increase his playing time this season, but to also earn the coveted starting job.
But even in Gallman’s absence, he is still teaching the sophomore what it takes to be the starter at a place like Clemson.
“He practiced at 110, 110 miles per hour. So, definitely his practice pace—I just picked that apart. He was a terrific guy to pick apart, watch film on, study, because he went all-out and you seen what it took,” Feaster said. “I’m going to approach it one day at a time, attack it one day. But, just trying to be the best I can be every day. Just knowing that there is a shot that I can start, I’m taking full advantage of my opportunity.”
With all three of the running backs—C.J. Fuller, Adam Choice and Feaster—looking to secure the starting job, one might be concerned that the competition may lead to bad blood between the group. But for Feaster, that could not be further from the truth.
“It’s a wonderful atmosphere. It’s great, healthy competition and everybody wants to see each other succeed,” Feaster said. “So, whoever gets the job is going to be the best running back in the ACC. I think we have the best unit as a whole.”
But regardless of whether or not Feaster is able to secure the starting job, or is once again a backup, he understands that his role on this Tiger team is only going to get bigger and more important.
“My role has changed. My role has gotten bigger for the team,” Feaster said. “They are looking for me to step up into a role. So, I know that once my mindset changed then everything else will change.”