The 2018 football season did not get off to a good start for Clemson running back Tavien Feaster. He entered fall camp with a banged-up knee and missed a few days during the first couple of weeks of practice.
It caused him to fall behind in the competition. After rushing for 669 yards and seven touchdowns, while starting 11 games in 2017, the Spartanburg, S.C., native lost his starting job to eventual ACC Player of the Year, Travis Etienne.
Feaster could have pouted and hung his head, but that is not who he is. Instead, he got up off the mat, dusted himself off and went back to work. After falling to third on the depth chart at the start of the year, Feaster worked his way back up.
First, he got heathy and slowly started becoming a contributor in the Tigers’ explosive offense. By the end of the season, he was clearly the Tigers’ No. 2 guy, as the first guy off the bench when Etienne was taken out of the game.
“Competition is the key. You have to have competition because it brings out the best in all of them,” running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “I think what you are seeing are guys stepping up.”
Feaster definitely stepped. He rushed for 101 yards on six carries against Louisville, while scoring two touchdowns, including a 70-yard jaunt up the middle of the field.
He also scored touchdowns against Duke and South Carolina down the stretch. He rushed for 63 yards, mostly tough yards, against the Gamecocks. He averaged 9.0 yards per carry against the Tigers’ top rival.
Watching a guy like Adam Choice helped Feaster stick with it. Choice, who used up his eligibility in 2018, could have easily given up when Clemson recruited Feaster, Etienne and Lyn-J Dixon the last three years. They were all highly touted players coming out of high school and he was coming of an ACL injury.
However, when it would have been easy to transfer and go play somewhere else, Choice stuck with it and finished out his career at Clemson. He was awarded by helping his team win another national championship, while playing a big role at the same time.
“A guy like Adam Choice, I talk about him all the time and people on the outside did not quite know why. He came in and had an unbelievable season because of the competition and because he stuck with it,” Elliott said. “Because he stuck with it, every single day he got better, and he had the best season of his career.”
As a prime example of why one should not quit, Choice finished the year second on the team with 548 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
But, like Choice, Feaster stuck with it as well. He quietly became Clemson’s workhorse in the backfield. The junior averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns for the defending national champions.
“It is the same thing for Tavien and for Lyn-J,” Elliott said. “You have a guy at the front, you have a guy in the back and then you have guys in the middle and it can all change. They know that. It brings them tighter together and gives them a bond, so when they step on the field they play with a lot of passion because they know that they are playing for their unit first and then playing for their team.”
Feaster did that by becoming the best pass blocker in the backfield and played mostly on third down or in passing situations.
The Spartanburg High School product rushed for 440 yards and also caught 11 passes for 71 more yards.
In the national championship game against Alabama, he caught two passes for 29 yards, including a 26-yard pass to set up a touchdown.
Feaster will enter the spring as the Tigers’ No. 2 running back on the depth chart.
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