Clemson University

What the loss of a ‘great player’ in Tavien Feaster means for Clemson

Tavien Feaster never lived up to the sky-high expectations that he arrived at Clemson with, but the former five-star recruit is still a big loss for the Tigers, according to head coach Dabo Swinney.

Feaster went through spring practice as Clemson’s No. 2 running back and was praised by the coaching staff for his leadership qualities and for looking the best he ever has on the field.

If Feaster really does have the best year of his college career in 2019, it will be for another team. The Spartanburg native announced last month that he is transferring from Clemson for his senior season. Feaster is planning to graduate this summer and will be immediately eligible in 2019 as a graduate transfer.

“I certainly was disappointed. I just think he’s a great player and definitely wanted him to stay,” Swinney said at a Prowl and Growl event in Florence last week. “But it’s a decision that he felt like was best for him, and man, he’s been a model student and player and gonna be a graduate, so I think that’s the number one thing that I always focus on is guys getting their degree.”

With Feaster moving on Clemson is thin at running back behind ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne.

Clemson returns Etienne and rising sophomore Lyn-J Dixon, but it is losing senior Adam Choice to graduation, in addition to Feaster. In Choice and Feaster the Tigers are losing 988 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns worth of production.

“As far as our running back situation, it’s not as good as it was before he left, that’s for sure, because he’s a great player,” Swinney said. “I think he’s second all-time in yards per carry for people who have at least 1,000 yards rushing. It just so happens Etienne, I think, is number one. But, you know, it’s just kind of a decision that he felt like he needed to make. ... It’s a big loss for us.”

Feaster ends his time at Clemson with 1,330 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He averaged six yards per carry during his career.

Clemson is bringing in a pair of newcomers at running back in four-star recruit Chez Mellusi of Florida and three-star recruit Michel Dukes of Charleston. Running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott will try to get those two ready to help in 2019. The Tigers also have an experienced walk-on in Darien Rencher, who saw action in seven games last season.

But it all starts with Etienne, who rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019. The Louisiana native enters his junior season as a Heisman contender.

“Travis is back and he’s a special talent. This gives more opportunity to Lyn-J. I think he’ll be ready to step up and take full advantage of more opportunity,” Swinney said. “We signed two, so that was big. So we’ll get Chez and Michael Dukes on campus here in a few weeks. That’s going to be critical. I think Darien Rencher is a young man that can really help us and has proven to be a very dependable player with the opportunities that he’s gotten. So we’ll be fine. It’ll be a good group.”