South Carolina football: What's a realistic expectation for Tavien Feaster?
It’s nice to know when you’re wanted. Even if you must switch teams, even in a heated rivalry, then so be it.
That was the thought process for former Clemson running back Tavien Feaster, who looked for a home to be a starter after he lost his job to Travis Etienne last season and found it at South Carolina. South Carolina has searched for a dependable every-down running back since Mike Davis left in 2014 when he nearly had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (1,183 yards and 982).
Feaster is expected to graduate from Clemson in a matter of days, and be immediately eligible this fall with 1 season remaining.
South Carolina’s expected starter at running back, Rico Dowdle, was left off the preseason depth chart because he didn’t participate in spring practice as he sat out with a hamstring injury. A.J. Turner and Mon Denson are expected to share the carries with Feaster in the mix as well.
Feaster has offered a glimpse at what Gamecocks fans will salivate over on long runs like this one in his early days at Clemson. Feaster had the second-best yards-per-carry average in Clemson history (5.99, behind Etienne’s 7.79). He rushed for 1,330 yards and caught 23 passes for 183 yards, with 16 touchdowns in 3 seasons. Feaster had 5 games with double-digit carries in his Clemson career.
The Gamecocks should be well aware of Feaster. He had 117 yards on 21 carries and 2 touchdowns in 3 games against them.
Aside from his running skills that enabled him to start 11 out of his 41 games at Clemson, he was known as the best pass blocker on the team, something Jake Bentley has probably already noted.
In an interview with Spartanburg’s WSPA-TV in May, Feaster said his decision would be based on going to a program that would use all of his talents. Before he settled on South Carolina, Feaster reportedly also considered Virginia Tech. He said having a solid coaching staff and supportive teammates were qualifications he wanted in a new destination.
“Going to a place where they have talent already,” he said. “You’re going to go there and just provide a bigger spark for them.”
While he was a part of Clemson’s 2 national championships, Feaster said he still has personal goals to accomplish.
This move gives him an opportunity to play with a chip on his shoulder. After all, it was a meniscus injury suffered in the summer of 2018 that cost him his starting job to Etienne. He also dealt with a shoulder injury in the Upstate. The writing might have been on the wall from 2017, when Etienne didn’t start a game, yet led the Tigers in yards out of the backfield.
Feaster will spice up a backfield that’s long on experience, but short on consistent production. There’s the veteran trio, but also Deshaun Fenwick and Lavonte Valentine, along with freshman Kevin Harris.
At the SEC Spring Meetings, Muschamp addressed the need for a running back to put stress on the defense as he was pressed about that position during his tenure in Columbia. South Carolina has not finished higher than 12th in the SEC in rushing in Muschamp’s 3 seasons as head coach.
“I think when you have a guy back there that can consistently make a guy miss or run through contact (it helps),” Muschamp said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “In most situations, the defensive coordinator is going to have enough guys in the box to stop the run. You have to have that guy that can run through contact, that can hit the hole and run and turn a 4- to 6-yard gain into a 60-yard gain and we haven’t done that consistently enough at South Carolina in my three years.”
“… You have to be able to have multiple hats at the ball if you know there is a guy who can take it the distance on any play. It certainly changes the game, absolutely.”
Feaster is the second Clemson player to transfer to the Gamecocks in as many years following defensive lineman Josh Belk, who has since left the team.
Team chemistry and learning the playbook are noteworthy considerations upon his arrival. Once all of the paperwork clears and he steps on the practice field, it’ll be less than a month before the Gamecocks square off with North Carolina. What kind of shape will he be in? How will Dowdle, Turner and Denson react to added competition?
This move has the potential to be a transformational addition to the program, and something that Muschamp needs to turn a corner. It will come down to how Feaster integrates into the locker room, if he stays healthy and how the coaching staff deploys him and the other running backs.