Senior running back Tavien Feaster has had a very business-like approach to his first training camp at South Carolina.
After transferring from Clemson, where he rushed for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns but lost playing time last year when running mate Travis Etienne emerged as an All-American, Feaster has gone about his business in a workmanlike manner. He’s focused on proving to his coaches that he can take over as South Carolina’s lead back and bring the Gamecocks the explosiveness they have lacked at the position the past three years.
Feaster, a 6-0, 220-pound back, has heeded the advice of new running backs coach Thomas Brown.
“You can’t pass up a day, you can’t get complacent,” he said. “Just go out there every day and game rep, game rep, game rep. Push, push and keep pushing.”
Feaster is expected to split carries with senior Rico Dowdle at the start of the season but South Carolina enters the season opener Saturday with Feaster, Dowdle and senior Mon Denson all listed at the top of the depth chart. Head coach Muschamp said his staff will make a decision on the starter later in the week. He has been impressed, though, with how Feaster has adapted to his program and prepared for the season.
“He has handled things in a first-class manner. He comes to everything early, works his butt off, does everything that is asked of him,” he said. “I am overly pleased with Tavien and his work ethic and his buy-in and everything that he has done for our program. In our research, you talk to people and they say, ‘Hey, this is a good guy, this is a good program guy.’ It’s always tough when you bring a senior into a good locker room — and we have a good locker room — and he’s been a great teammate.”
“I think he’s done a tremendous job of coming in here and blocking out all the obvious, external factors that he could have listened to and let distract him,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “He was able to get in here and get in the playbook and get with the coaches and understand what he has to do to be able to get ready to play. That’s what he has done and I’m really excited about it.”
Feaster, who played on both of Clemson’s national championship teams, faced a huge transition when he announced his transfer late this summer. After graduating in August, he arrived at South Carolina in time for the third day of training camp. Since then, he has been staying after practice to watch film, study the playbook and learn South Carolina’s offense as quickly as possible, all while adapting to a new environment.
“I believe I have progressed a lot over this camp. I believe I have learned a lot and I’m up to speed,” he said Tuesday. “With my knowledge of football, I’m not like a freshman walking in. I believe I am highly intelligent when it comes to football and I think I’m on the right track.”
Though his goal is to become South Carolina’s featured back, Feaster says he has meshed well with Dowdle, Denson and the rest of the offense. He says the running backs have all pushed each other to get better.
“We talk daily and they sense that I am in here to handle business and they approach it the same way,” he said. “Those guys are hard workers. They come in every day, taking care of their bodies and studying. They are on it. The competition level is high in this room, so you have to bring it everyday.”
Feaster and Dowdle both have extensive experience, with Dowdle rushing for more than 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns in his three seasons at South Carolina. Denson has also been a significant contributor off the bench the past two years.
Feaster wants to be the lead back and uses every opportunity he gets to try to prove himself.
“Every day, every snap is an audition,” he said. “Everybody wants to be that guy but at the end of the day, you just have to go out there and earn your opportunity. If you excel past the other guys, of course they are going to play you more. If not, they are going to rotate you all and you are going to go out there and handle your business. …. I believe I can come in and contribute, but I have to earn it day in and day out.”
For now, Feaster is anxious and excited to take the field for the first time Saturday in a Gamecock uniform.
“I’m very excited to go out there and compete and just to go out there and play football again,” he said. “It’s been a long summer, a long fall camp, but now I am ready to play.”