Tavien Feaster admits his freshman season didn’t turn out as well as he had hoped.
Coming out of high school as a first-team USA Today All-American and consensus top-60 prospect nationally, Feaster finished the 2016 season with only 222 rushing yards on 37 carries after compiling more than 6,500 all-purpose yards during his career at Spartanburg (S.C.) High.
So, as he prepared over the offseason for the upcoming campaign, Feaster knew he needed to do some things differently.
“Thinking off my freshman season, coming out of high school an All-American, things didn’t work out the way I wanted it to my freshman year,” Feaster said this week. “So, something had to change. You have to be mentality tough before you’re physically tough.”
That’s where Feaster started — changing his mindset and working to improving both mental and physical aspects of his game.
Mentally, Feaster has focused on revamping his approach to practice, and his practice habits have gotten much better as a result.
“I approach it one day at a time,” Feaster said. “I’m attacking the day but just trying to be the best I can be every day. I know there is a shot that I could start, so I’m just trying to take full advantage of my opportunity.”
There were times in practice last season when Feaster would flash his playmaking potential, only to follow up an impressive play with a mental mistake.
Thus far in fall camp, Feaster has been more consistent, something Clemson running backs coach Tony Elliott attributes in part to Wayne Gallman, who set the example as the starting tailback last season.
“Wayne has set the standard in our room for the way that you prepare, the way you perform, the way that you practice,” Elliott said. “So (Feaster’s) practice habits are better. You can see that he’s consistently putting plays together, whereas in the past you may have saw a flash and then you have a bonehead mistake. And that’s just a function of a lack of intensity at that time.
“He understands what it takes to be that guy, and he’s really, really pressing to try to be consistent every play.”
Another area of his game Feaster has zeroed in on improving from a mental standpoint is his running style.
Feaster entered this season wanting to become a more physical runner, which he struggled to do last season in part because he was coming off the shoulder surgery he underwent early last year.
Now fully recovered, Feaster isn’t worried anymore about taking a hit. Instead, he is trying to give it out.
“My mindset has changed, man,” Feaster said. “I’m not all about trying to get to the sideline or am I going to get hit too hard or anything like that. I know it’s either get a lick or take the lick, so I’ve got to get them before they get me.”
In order to be more physical, Feaster knew he had to get stronger. So, he worked with Clemson strength and conditioning coach Joey Batson in the weight room to do just that.
Feaster currently weighs 220 pounds after ending last season at 210.
“I knew I had to be more powerful,” he said. “You have to pass-block here. Also running the ball, you’ve got to be a little bit more powerful at the college level, so I decided I was going to get as strong as I could this summer and just see where it takes me.”
The changes Feaster has made mentally and physically have culminated in success so far in fall camp.
Feaster remains locked in a tight running back battle with redshirt juniors Adam Choice and C.J. Fuller, and Elliott said none of the backs have separated themselves yet.
Elliott did say, however, that Feaster has made a move in the competition of late.
“I feel like Tavien has come on the last couple of days,” Elliott said. “I thought Choice shot out of the gate. His first couple days were really good, and then Fuller has just been steady. But also I think Tavien is putting a little bit of pressure on them.”
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