CLEMSON — David Beasley grew up in a family of Auburn football fans in Columbus, Ga. On Saturday night in Atlanta, he matured as a Clemson football player against the team he adored as a child.
Beasley, a redshirt sophomore, said the impact of his first start packed a wallop as he stepped to the line at left guard and saw former Carver High teammate Gabe Wright across from him in an Auburn uniform.
“When I first walked out there before the first snap, it hits your mind,” he said. “It was like, “Whew! Ain’t no turning back.’ ”
Beasley proved to be a tough, durable addition to a Clemson offensive line needing solutions quickly, playing nearly 100 snaps. It was a far cry from last season, when he played 30 snaps over five games.
“I didn’t want to disappoint anybody so I just went out there and played hard,” Beasley said this week. “I didn’t want to look at myself and know I let my chance slip away.”
Until about three weeks ago Clemson coaches weren’t sure how the pieces would fit on the offensive line. They looked at several options, and there was no guarantee the line would look the same for this week’s game against Ball State.
Beasley’s performance against Auburn made it moot.
“The first of this summer, he struggled with his conditioning,” senior center Dalton Freeman said. “Then he struggled early on in camp as far as picking up the offense and knowing what to do. But somewhere in that first week of camp something clicked. You could just tell the difference in him.
“I am very, very, very proud of Beasley.”
Beasley realized he needed to change if he was going to have a reasonable chance to play during his third season in the program.
“I was just young and crazy, and I didn’t have the maturity level to deal with this type of playing, the type of success that comes with this,” he said. “I don’t think I was old enough to deal with it.”
At 6-foot-4, he played at more than 335 pounds last season. Last week he weighed 310, and admitted, “I move better without it.”
He reshaped his approach. “Maybe I was lackadaisical and lazy,” he said. “Now I eat better, watch my weight and watch how I live off the field.”
Clemson had 528 yards — including 320 rushing — against a stout defensive line that included former high school teammate Wright. During the summer the two spent some time together in Columbus, but Beasley said he avoided communicating with Wright the past few weeks because “on the field we’re enemies.”
“I think we surprised a lot of people thinking we weren’t going to be as aggressive as we were,” Beasley said. “We’re tough guys on the offensive line. We’re not going to just let somebody come and beat up on us.”
As big as it was playing in Atlanta in front of a Clemson-Auburn crowd that included dozens of family and friends, he understands there’s more work ahead.
“You don’t want to go and play somebody like Auburn and play a good game then go and play somebody like Ball State and don’t have a great game,” he said. “I don’t underestimate nobody. I should play to my own standard.
“I’m not going to let off.”