CALL IT THE continuing maturation of Vic Beasley as one of the top football players on the planet.
Before you dismiss such a notion as absurd, consider how the Clemson All-American has progressed from a multi-talented, two-way player in high school without a true position, to a tight end and then linebacker at Clemson, and, finally, to one of the best defensive ends in the country.
How much more room is there for improvement?
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That is the question that has NFL scouts drooling. Most scouts wanted Beasley to leave for pro football following last season, when he was projected to be a second-round pick but could have pushed into the first round with a solid showing at the NFL Combine.
Already considered the top pass-rusher in the country, Beasley can be one of the first players selected in the draft next summer with improved play against the run and by expanding his game to include dropping into pass coverage.
Yet those prospects were not the motivating factor behind Beasley’s decision to return for his redshirt senior season. He was asked repeatedly Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff gathering what factors played into that decision. His answer never changed.
“I wanted to get my degree,” Beasley said, “and leave a legacy at Clemson.”
Beasley has taken care of the degree. He will graduate Aug. 7 with a degree in sociology.
As for the legacy part, that likely will be as the greatest sack artist in Clemson history. Beasley has 21 sacks for his career, which ranks eighth on Clemson’s all-time list. He needs eight this season to surpass the co-leaders, Michael Dean Perry from 1984-87 and Gaines Adams from 2003-06.
The sack total is more impressive when you consider all 21 came the past two seasons. Thirteen of those came last season, which was Beasley’s first as a starter, and ranked third nationally.
Beasley said he is aware of what happens to defensive ends who return for their final season of college football with much acclaim. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney faced constant double-teaming last season and produced three sacks.
Beasley believes he will benefit from being moved around on defense. He is likely to play more from a stand-up position at defensive end and will line up occasionally at linebacker. Both moves can counter opposing offense’s attempts to double-team him.
Beasley certainly is used to moving around.
On offense, Beasley rushed for 828 yards as a senior and also played wide receiver and quarterback at Adairsville (Ga.) High. On defense, he had 102 tackles as an outside linebacker. He also returned punts, and the one kickoff he returned went 80 yards for a touchdown. In Georgia’s North-South All-Star Game, he blocked a field-goal attempt.
“Playing all those positions in high school, you know I had good speed,” Beasley said. “I believe that transferred over to the college level when they put me at those different positions.”
Clemson knew it had a superb athlete when he joined the Tigers as a tight end. During that redshirt first year, Beasley directed Clemson’s scout team in practice at quarterback. Then the coaching staff recognized a shortage of linebackers and shifted Beasley there.
Beasley played 16 snaps over nine games as a linebacker during his redshirt freshman season, then played in all 13 games as a redshirt sophomore at defensive end. Finally, a season ago, he emerged as a star with exceptional speed (4.3 to 4.5 in the 40-yard dash) and quickness for a defensive end.
Beasley is considered undersized for a defensive end, playing last season at 230 pounds. Ideally, he would like to be in the 240 range, and he has added five pounds during the offseason.
“My body is kind of different than some others,” Beasley said. “I kind of put on more muscle than I do fat.”
Like with every phase of his life, Beasley seems to have taken a level-headed approach to the offseason attention he has received. He said Sammy Watkins, his All-America receiver teammate of a season ago, has helped him stay grounded.
It all is part of Beasley’s master plan to improve his game to not only leave a lasting legacy at Clemson but to prepare himself for play in the NFL.
“I have weaknesses and there are areas I need to improve in, just like my pass rush, that can get better, and my ability to drop back in coverage,” Beasley said. “I’m trying to be the total-package player.”
More and more it seems there is nothing Beasley cannot do. Did we mention that visitors to the lobby of the Brooks Fine Arts Center on Clemson’s campus often do a double-take when they see Beasley playing the piano?