How often does a player on a national championship-winning team, who’s one season removed a 1,000-yard season, decide to leave the program?
It feels like it’s happening more and more, and that former Clemson running back Tavien Feaster is just another example of an accomplished player looking for greener pastures.
As a sophomore in 2017, Feaster burst onto the scene with 669 rushing yards on just 107 carries, scoring seven touchdowns. Feaster was second on the team in rushing to speedy freshman Travis Etienne, but the duo each received the same amount of carries and were a lethal 1-2 combination.
One would have expected the duo to share the load again in 2018, but that wasn’t the case. Etienne was the favored option, rushing 204 times for 1,658 yards and an astronomical 24 touchdowns. Etienne averaged 8.1 yards per rush, proving his worth.
Feaster fell by the wayside, rushing just 78 times for 440 yards and six scores. Feaster was efficient, but his usage dropped dramatically and he carried the ball just one more time than redshirt senior Adam Choice, who had never shown to be an impact player.
With one year of eligibility left, Feaster is looking for an opportunity to prove himself and is set on either attending Clemson’s in-state rival South Carolina or Clemson’s ACC-rival Virginia Tech. Either way, Feaster is likely to be the feature back with no five-star freshman ready to steal his thunder.
South Carolina’s offense has been anemic for quite a while now, as is custom for a Will Muschamp-coached team. The Gamecocks’ leading rushing in 2018 ran for just 654 yards and four scores, leading the team in both categories. South Carolina finished the season as the 92nd-best rushing offense in the country.
Virginia Tech’s offense has a bit more prowess, but the Hokies have lacked a feature back for several years. Justin Fuente has employed a by-committee approach to the position since arriving in 2016, splitting up the carries between multiple backs. No running back has ran the ball more than 200 times under Fuente in Blacksburg, and Tech quarterbacks have led the team in rushing attempts twice in his three seasons as head coach — Jerod Evans in 2016 and Josh Jackson in 2017.
Perhaps Fuente is committed to this balanced approach, sure of the philosophy that backs are better when fresh and the easiest way to keep them fresh is to limit their workload. Or, maybe Fuente is yearning for an elite-level, do-it-all back that can carry his Hokies offense.
Maybe Feaster is the answer. At 5-foot-11 and 220-pounds, Feaster has excellent size and surprising athleticism. Watch some of Feaster’s 2017 highlights and tell me if you’ve seen that kind of quickness and speed out of any recent Tech running backs. I don’t believe I have.
Feaster feels like a blend of fan favorite Steven Peoples and Tech’s last dominant running back, David Wilson. Feaster has the physicality and strength that Peoples had, as well as some of the quickness and speed that made Wilson a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
There’s no guarantee that Feaster will solve Virginia Tech’s issues in the running game. He had weapons upon weapons surrounding him at Clemson, whether it was an elite-passer in Trevor Lawrence, or explosive receivers like Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins. But Feaster will have every single opportunity he could ask for presented to him in Blacksburg. I can’t think of a better fit for a senior running back looking to make his case to the NFL.
No matter where Feaster goes, making his decision soon would benefit him and the program he chooses. Summer practices start soon, and he’ll need time to get acclimated. Let’s hope we learn his intentions sooner rather than later.