Tavien Feaster details his decision to leave Clemson, come to South Carolina
Does he consider himself the top guy in South Carolina’s running back room?
He stepped over the question Thursday much as he would a feeble arm tackle.
“No, sir, I don’t,” Feaster said. “That’s not my decision. That’s coach (Thomas) Brown and coach (Will) Muschamp’s decision. All I gotta do is just go out there, learn the plays, learn the details, everything — you know, take it day by day.”
The newest Gamecock tailback didn’t have the benefit of arriving on campus before camp started, and between graduation from Clemson and an issue with a tooth, he missed some practices. As a graduate transfer, he’s eligible to play right away at USC.
And a player with only one year of eligibility isn’t going to be brought in this late in the process if there isn’t some sense he’ll be able to take on a valuable role.
Although he’s coming into a running back room with several seniors, Feaster said the reception from Rico Dowdle and Mon Denson has been a good one.
“Those guys are great,” Feaster said. “They bring it every day, bring the juice every day. So you know, you got to stay on your toes every day, you got to go out there and compete with them.”
In Columbia, he’ll wear No. 4, a change from his 28 in high school and as he ran for 1,330 yards the past three seasons at Clemson. He smiled as he recalled how 28 is “where it all started,” but 4 was his number in middle school, and he decided a fresh start warranted a change.
Feaster played in the Shrine Bowl with current Gamecocks Chavis Dawkins, Jaylan Foster, Bryan Edwards, Javon Kinlaw, Jabari Ellis, T.J. Brunson and Chandler Farrell, and with Kinlaw and Edwards at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
But he also has history with the Bentley family and even played against Jake Bentley, who he’ll be taking handoffs from going forward.
“It’s a crazy story,” Feaster said. “Chris Miller (Feaster’s high school coach) came from Byrnes. So you know, Bobby Bentley, the great Bobby Bentley — of course I knew who Jake was, his history. And we played him in 7-on-7 when he was at Opelika (Alabama). They beat us, you know ... they cheated.”
He said that last part with a big grin.
For Feaster, the move to Columbia represented a new opportunity. He admitted that running backs coach Thomas Brown made the difference between USC and Virginia Tech, and he gets the advantage everyone has a fresh slate with a first-year position coach.
Dowdle has run for nearly 1,700 yards in three seasons, while Denson had 432 last year. Former starter A.J. Turner seems fully invested in moving to defense, and the coaches have said they hope to rely on two primary backs in 2019.
Feaster joked about a few parts of his move, leaving three years of purple and orange gear behind, and the biggest surprise once he started practice — Columbia is considerably more humid. He still has affection for his former teammates, who hold no ill will toward him, and even texted with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney last week before his college graduation.
Now he’s on to his next step, starting graduate school, ready for one final season of college ball. He went through spring practice at Clemson to feel out his role on his former team. Coming away he said he expected to play as much as he did last year behind Travis Etienne, and he decided leaving was the best thing for him.
Feaster is going warp speed to pick up the new playbook, adapt and make his case for a big role.
“I just needed more opportunity for myself and to try to get myself in a better position, you know, for things ahead,” Feaster said. “That was really it. It was a decision I had to make for myself.”