By Will Vandervort
It’s a no-brainer who the most valuable defensive player on this year’s Clemson team is. And his story is one of the best ones on the squad.
Two years ago, no one on the Clemson coaching staff knew what to do with Vic Beasley, who was recruited to Clemson as a tight end. After redshirting his freshman year, he moved to linebacker and then to defensive end, where the coaches still were not sure if that was a good position for him.
“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 head coach Dabo Swinney 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.’”
Beasley got his chance as a reserve defensive end in 2012 and despite playing only 196 snaps he led the Tigers with eight sacks.
“I came a long way from last year,” Beasley said.
With his production in 2012, Beasley entered the spring as the first string defensive end. He gained 14 pounds, got stronger and learned more moves. Beasley has been a beast to handle as he led the nation in sacks for much of the year until playing triple option teams like Georgia Tech and The Citadel slowed down his production.
But in the first game back against a more traditional offense, he sacked South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw twice and forced a fumble.
“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.”
Beasley currently has 39 tackles this year, 31 solo tackles while also recording 19 tackles for loss and 12 sacks both of which lead the team. He ranks seventh in the country in tackles for loss and is tied for third in the country in sacks.
“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.”
Instead, Beasley speaks with his play and NFL Scouts have taken notice. Beasley is projected by some to be a first-round selection in April’s NFL Draft should he choose to come out and forgo his senior season with the Tigers.
He has already filed his paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board and should get the results back prior to the Discover Orange Bowl against Ohio State on Jan. 3. Juniors have until Jan. 15 to declare themselves eligible for the draft.
“I will take first round. It is not all about the money, but shoot I’ll take first round. It is the best of the best,” Beasley smiled when asked would he go pro after the Orange Bowl.
“The family mostly is living it up to me, but anytime you have the possibility of going in the first round, that can always help your family out, but there is not much pressure.”
Beasley says his only focus right now is trying to figure out a way to shut down Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes’ running game. And if he is chooses to leave Clemson after that then he hopes his story will motivate others to work as hard as he has these last couple of years.
“I just want to leave it all out there on the field. I just want to leave a legacy at Clemson University and leave a standard for guys likes Tavaris Barnes and Shaq Lawson,” he said. “I have a lot of areas I could have improved on and played a lot better. For the most part, I think I did an okay job.”
He did a good enough job to be The Clemson Insider’s Defensive Player of the Year.