By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
During a coaches meeting prior to the 2012 football season, Dabo Swinney laid down an ultimatum to his defensive coaching staff.
“I told the coaches, ‘Listen, we have to get production out of Vic Beasley. If we don’t get anything out of him, I’m moving him to running back,’” Clemson’s head coach said. “Marion (Hobby) was like, ‘Wait a minute now! Wait a minute!’ I said, ‘Let’s get him on the field. The guy is too good of a player. He is too fast and too athletic. We have to find out what he can do and give him the chance to do it.’”
That opportunity came at defensive end, where Beasley finally found a home after bouncing around as a tight end and linebacker during his first two seasons at Clemson. After having a productive spring, Beasley started to transfer his potential to game days.
Despite being undersized at 220 pounds, he had eight sacks as a reserve in just 288 snaps in 2012, a sack every 36 plays for the course of the season. This year he has an even better rate as he has his eight sacks in just 196 snaps on defense, or one every 25 plays.
“There was a lot of doubt for me when I was playing tight end and then they moved me to linebacker,” he said. “They really could not find a position for me.
“It was very frustrating. There was a lot of doubt going into it. I thought about transferring, should I do this or should I do that. But I just kept the faith and kept on with the task and everything has paid off for me.”
And it could make for a big pay in the near future. Beasley currently leads the nation in sacks and ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., has him No. 8 overall on his big draft board for next April’s NFL Draft. One ESPN analyst has given him the nickname “Vic Beastly” because no one has really been able to block him this year.
“A high school running back, Beasley still has the kind of quickness you’d associate with that position, but he’s extremely powerful in the lower half and can use that leverage to drive a tackle into the backfield,” Kiper said. “Beasley also has a good variety of pass-rushing skills, does a good job of ripping his arm through and turning the corner with a good bend.”
Over his last 11 games, Beasley has 14 sacks in 359 plays, a rate of a sack every 26 plays. For his career, he has 16 sacks in 500 plays, one every 31 snaps.
“He has a unique skill set and he puts out a good effort,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He is staying humble and is practicing hard. He is playing with discipline which is helping with other things and it is helping him execute as well.”
Venables says he is pleased and not surprised to see Beasley doing what he is doing. He says the undersized defensive end, which has upped his weight to 235 pounds, has a unique skill set that separates him from others around the country.
“He is sudden, he is explosive, he has good anticipation and good awareness about the game and what happened the last down,” Venables said. “He knows what happened on third down in the last series. He is probably better at studying tape. He understands his opponent and guys lining up against him. He knows what works and what does not. He knows where he is strong and where he is weak, those kinds of things.”
And it was those very same things he was not doing two years ago when he was frustrated, uninspired and unfocused.
“He did not understand all that goes into being a great player,” Swinney said. “Things had always come a little easy for him athletically (when he was in high school) and now he is at different positions and it is all new. Then he was getting moved.
“He was not engaged as he needed to be. Again, he was not committed on doing the things he needed to do like the little things, being on time to workouts, showing up for workouts, just being fully committed.”
Beasley finally got committed when he started to see what he could do against an All-ACC left tackle in practice – teammate Brandon Thomas. That gave him confidence which grew with each sack he recorded. He got his first one against Auburn, another against Boston College and then two against Wake Forest. Then came the NC State game, where he had three sacks and five tackles.
“I just knew then this was home for me and it was going to work out for me,” Beasley said. “It motivated me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence. It just gave me the will and the want to.”
That confidence led to Beasley becoming a more dedicated football player. Instead of playing around like he did when he was a freshman, he now is focused and is leading in group and team meetings. He has become a student of the game, he takes care of his body and he understands what he has to do to become a better player.
He has taken moves Hobby taught him in the spring and perfected them before fall camp started in August.
“He taught us a lot of moves,” Beasley said. “I just practiced them over the summer and practiced them during the spring and tried to make the best of them. The spin move is my best move right now.”
NC State and Syracuse know that move the best as he used it in both games, recording five of his eight sacks against them.
“I saw him being a great player a couple of years ago. That was obvious,” Swinney said. “You could visually see this guy, if he ever just committed he could be great. He was very unfocused then.
“He’s a great kid. He is just a super person. If you ever get to know Vic he has a very gentle spirit and is a very kind-hearted young man. He is very quiet and does not say much at all.”
Now that quiet guy has become a team leader and will be a captain for the third-ranked Tigers on Saturday when they host Boston College at 3:30 p.m. Two years ago, Swinney could not imagine Beasley as a captain for a game.
“He has really become a good leader for us. He really has,” the Clemson head coach said. “That is incredible growth from where he was a couple of years ago. As a freshman he was kind of a distraction. He was silly and not focused, but he has grown up and bought in.
“He has found his niche. He found his confidence. He is enjoying it and is having fun playing football.”
And more importantly he is having fun being Vic Beasley and not DaQuan Bowers or any other Clemson great from the past.
“I think he is his own guy. There is no question, as far impacting the game, he is every bit in the realm of any of those guys,” Swinney said. “He is a special football player and the thing is, by far, the best is yet to come for him.
“He is very much a work in progress, but he is figuring it out quickly and will leave here as one of the best we have ever had.”