By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Just as promised by many in the football world, a junior from a South Carolina school is among the nation’s leaders in sacks this season.
But it is probably not the player most people expected to find a month ago.
Through three games, Vic Beasley is fifth in the country with five sacks. That number includes his three-sack effort in a nationally televised contest against N.C. State last Thursday night. He is just one-half sack off the national lead, which is shared by four players. One of them is a conference competitor—Maryland linebacker Marcus Whitfield—so Beasley isn’t even leading the ACC in the category at the juncture.
But that doesn’t mean his ferocity has gone unnoticed by opposing quarterbacks, offensive tackles, and offensive coordinators.
Beasley has more than held his own in spite of what most would consider a significant weakness in his game at defensive end: He weighs only 235 pounds.
To put Beasley’s lack of size into perspective, no other defensive end on the depth chart weighs less than 270 pounds. Linebackers Stephone Anthony (245) and Spencer Shuey (240) are listed at a heavier weight than Beasley.
In spite of his size, the junior has proved to be a nuisance due to his knack for finding ways to beat opposing offensive tackles. He has a move he calls the “dip-and-rip” he uses to get to the quarterback, but he has also developed his power game to become a more well-rounded pass rusher.
“I believe guys watch film from last year and know that I’m really a quick guy,” he said, “so they play to more of my speed now than my power or my inside move. Just keeping the offensive tackles and guards on their toes has helped me out a lot.”
Many may have viewed the decision to move Beasley to defensive end with skepticism, and rightfully so. Guys who weigh 235 pounds don’t play defensive end in college. They play linebacker or tight end, two positions Beasley tried on for size earlier in his career at Clemson.
After bouncing around for quite a while, finding a home as a rush end has given Beasley new life as an upperclassman. He went from being a man without a home to a thriving member of a growing defense still looking to distinguish itself in the shadow of an offense that has been all the rage in college football for multiple years.
Beasley says the Tiger defense views this season as a chance to prove it can elevate its status the same way the offense has done recently, and a solid effort on the road against a motivated Wolfpack team was a snapshot of the unit it can become as the season moves forward.
“I believe it’s just a determination inside,” Beasley said. “This year, we came into the season with more expectations than we did last year. That’s been the deciding factor for us as a pass rush.”
The entire Tiger defensive line has begun to turn heads around college football, and Beasley may be the one most responsible. Improbably, he is the defensive end setting the standard for sacking quarterbacks in the Palmetto State this season.