This time a year ago, Tavien Feaster was getting ready to sign with Clemson.
The months since the 2016 National Signing Day haven’t gone the way many Clemson faithful imagined, yet.
Feaster was one of the stars of last year’s recruiting class. There was a great deal of hype following South Carolina’s Mr. Football from Spartanburg High to Tiger Town. Coaches and fans couldn’t wait to see what he could do.
There were comparisons to former Clemson great C.J. Spiller.
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All of those things could still happen, and maybe in 2017, but 2016 turned into a year of learning and self-growth for Feaster.
“I feel like it was well needed,” said Feaster, who had 37 carries in 12 games in Clemson’s national championship season. “I learned a lot of things and I got to save my body coming off high school, where I started three years in a row. I was kind of beat up and I reserved my body and I learned a lot to help me in the game next year.”
Gone is Wayne Gallman, a three-year player who is one of the most decorated running backs in school history. There are no returning players with at least 50 carries from last season, so the door is open for Feaster, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2016, to take that next step and become a starter.
“I’ve been very, very, very, very, very impressed with how he’s handled himself,” said Clemson co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Tony Elliott. “Sometimes you worry about a five-star guy coming in that may have to wait his turn, and rightfully so. Wayne Gallman was the lead dog in our room and he wasn’t giving that up. As talented as Tavien is, he understood that, but what I’m pleased with the most is he got right in Wayne’s hip. That just shows that maturity that he does want to be great.”
Feaster, who scored two touchdowns and rushed for 221 yards as a freshman, said he didn’t come to Clemson expecting a huge role. He knew he had to earn it.
Elliott said players of Feaster’s caliber don’t get as challenged in high school, so a transition has to be expected. There were instances in practice during Feaster’s first season in which he thought he was about to have a good run, but he “got matched up with a guy bigger, faster, stronger and he got his nose bloodied.”
“The great thing is he came right back and you see what he’s capable of,” Elliott said.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Feaster has worked on being a better blocker and understanding the offensive schemes. A year not playing much gave him an advantage in other areas.
“I was more focused on my school work and my off-field character,” Feaster said.
That’s what has impressed Elliott the most about the rising sophomore. If Clemson can get Feaster, who has special speed and versatility catching passes out of the backfield, to be more consistent each and every play, then he might live up to the expectations that began more than a year ago.