Tony Elliott believes in Tavien Feaster. So much so, he eased the former five-star running back from Spartanburg, S.C., into his role at Clemson, instead of throwing him to the wolves all at once.
“Understand, and what I have told Feaster, is that we are building for the long haul,” Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach said at Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing on Tuesday. “We are not building for short-term success. Confidence is critical. You have seen instances where guys were given something too early and they were not ready for it. They were not prepared for it and so it damages their confidence.”
It helped that Elliott had All-ACC running back Wayne Gallman on campus last year. Gallman gave Elliott the option to hold back his talented freshman so Feaster could see the proper way to do things. Playing running back in college just isn’t about running with the football, there are other things they are asked to do that make the job harder than what most people view it to be.
“I want to be able to take the time, and having the situation in Wayne to lay that foundation—the right foundation—and build for the long haul,” Elliott said. “I just did not want a flash in the pan. I want him to be the best that has ever come through here. He is one of the few that you can say has the ability to do it, but there are some things we had to develop from a mental standpoint to get him there.”
The good news is Feaster was not reluctant to learn. He wanted to learn it the right way as much as Elliott wanted to teach it to him. Up until he got to Clemson, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back had never been asked to do read a defense, see what front it was in or what coverage. He never had to understand line calls and pass block. It was all new.
“Now he is able to identify a defense without someone else telling him what to do,” Elliott said. “He understands and recognizes a four-down front, a three-down front, an Okie-front, all these different fronts because every time they change a small alignment in that defensive line, it changes who we are targeted to in pass protection.”
These days Feaster is walking around the Allen Reeves Football Complex with a renewed sense of confidence and swagger, if you will, that everyone saw back when he was a senior in high school.
“Now he knows he has put in the work, he has seen what it looks like and what it takes to be successful,” Elliott said. “He has been in the weight room. We are starting to see his weight room numbers increase.”
Elliott said Feaster is a sharp young man, who has no problem picking new things up. He said the knowledge has always been there, but it was more about getting him to be consistent on every play and in everything he does.
“You would have your typical great play and then two bad plays, then another great play and then two bad plays,” the Clemson coach said. “I know the knowledge is there, and I hope this off-season, and having to go through all the installation again, the confidence of his new body and what he has accomplished in the weight room, is going to give him that attention to detail to do it every single time.”
Elliott believes the best thing happened for Feaster and for Clemson’s future running game was having Gallman on the practice fields, in the weight room, in the film room and in the running back room last year. Gallman was committed. He was very competitive and he wanted to be the best in everything he did and he understood that in order to do it on the field he had to do it every time in practice for Elliott to give him that opportunity.
“I think Tavien understands that and the confidence is there. The knowledge has always been there it was just a matter of being consistent to execute the knowledge,” Elliott said. “The best thing that happened to him is that he had Wayne Gallman, and then Wayne Gallman wanted to mentor him. So they sat next to each other in the meetings every day. They spent a lot of time together.
“Wayne was always looking out for him and that’s what lets me know (Feaster) has the right makings, he just has to be developed, shaped and molded. He did come in with a humble attitude. He did understand he was going to have to work and I think when he hit that field for the first time he realized these boys up here can play. They are big, they are fast, they are strong and it is not going to be quite as easy for him. I think once we get his body where it needs to be. Then you are going to see that ease of play that you saw that made him so special in high school.”
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