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Clemson Football

The Forgotten Man

August 3, 2018

Tavien Feaster arrived at Clemson from Spartanburg High with all the bells and whistles. The four-star recruit was the third-ranked All-Purpose back in the nation. He ranked as the top recruit in the state of South Carolina chose the Tigers over a bevy of who’s who of college football – Alabama, Florida State, Florida and Auburn to name a few.

Once deciding on Clemson, Feaster was honored and humbled to be allowed to wear the iconic number 28 that was previously worn by Clemson legend C.J. Spiller. Spiller himself checked Feaster out, both on and off the field, before agreeing to that number being worn on Frank Howard Field after being retired.

Feaster spent the 2016 season learning in a crowded backfield behind Wayne Gallman. While Gallman and Deshaun Watson carried the load on the ground during the National Title season, there were also opportunities for C.J. Fuller, Tyshon Dye and Adam Choice. 

In fact, Feaster finished 5th in carries that year, but 3rd in net rushing yards on just 37 attempts.

As 2017 dawned it looked as if Feaster would be the featured back with Gallman off to the NFL, but on signing day a little-known running back out of Louisiana chose Clemson – Travis Etienne.

Etienne quickly became the darling of the Clemson fans ripping off a 54 yarder on the 7th carry of his career with Clemson up 46 points that magically made fans forget Feaster’s 47-yard touchdown run on his 6th carry of the season.

Two weeks later on the 10th carry of his career Etienne avoided a scrum in the middle of the field, darted left and sped up the sideline, leaving exhausted Louisville defenders in the dust in route to an 81 yard touchdown - the play at the end of which Kirk Herbstreit uttered those now famous words: an embarrassment of riches.

Garbage time or not, from that moment on Feaster was fighting an uphill battle, at least in the court of public opinion among Clemson fans. It seemed to go that way for Feaster all season - he rushes for a 47-yard touchdown against Kent State in the opener, but all anyone talked about was the new guy’s 54-yard rush. Feaster jets through the N.C. State defense for an 89-yard back-breaking touchdown run in a huge road conference game with the Tigers backed up in their end and all anyone talks about is Tee Higgins running with him.

Tavien Feaster has become the forgotten man in the backfield, last years model that sits in the garage, while everyone oohs and ahhs over the shiny new model out front.

Etienne went on to record two more 50-yard rushes during the season, the last coming on ironically his 50th carry of the season against Syracuse. In his last 57 carries, Etienne had zero 50 yard rushes. Perhaps it was the freshman wall, though he still averaged 5.8 yards per rush in his last 57 attempts, not too shabby, but also far behind Feaster's 6.6 average over his final 57 carries.

Feaster seemed to get more explosive as the season went on. His first 50 yard rush was the 89 yarder above on rush number 79 and he struck again on rush 93 for a 61 yard jaunt to the end zone.

Measure Feaster Etienne
Avg/Rush 1st 50 rushes 5.9 8.8
Avg/Rush final 57 rushes 6.6 5.7
50 yard rushes 1st 50 rushes 0 4
50 yard rushes final 57 rushes 2 0
Explosive rushes first 50 rushes 5 9
Explosive rushes final 57 rushes 4 5

Etienne comes into the fall having established himself as the starter and is said to have improved his pass blocking skills, something that prevented him from playing more last season. Things could change during fall camp, but it’s likely Etienne will be first on the field against Furman.

It’s also likely three backs see significant time in the rotation this season, with Adam Choice being the 3rd. That’s likely to impact Feaster’s opportunities more than Etienne’s.

Across most measures, Etienne’s numbers from 2017 are outstanding though I’ve written before about the variances between the rushes of Feaster and Etienne, but I also acknowledge part of that variance is the four 50+ yard runs and that's a good thing. You just have to wonder about the lack of such runs in the second half of the season.

Perhaps Etienne will revert back to the explosive form of the first half and return to reeling off 50-yard rushes, after all, Tony Elliott raves about his explosiveness and I trust the coaches.

Yet somehow I find myself ruminating about the lack of appreciation for Tavien Feaster, and it's rare to find a Clemson fan who gives Feaster more than a cursory mention when the topic is Clemson's running game.


The Twitter poll above is obviously unscientific, but a Facebook poll provided similar numbers among Clemson fans.

Seasons are long, and running backs are frequently injured, but here's hoping Etienne has a full season similar to the first 50 rushes of his freshman campaign. I enjoy watching Louisiana Lightning just as much as anyone. 

If not, there’s still that other guy, the 2016 model that still runs exceptionally well, but no one talks about anymore. You know, the guy who was bestowed the number of a legend for a reason and who's shown he’s fully capable, too.

Discussion from...

The Forgotten Man

4,704 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by Seldom Used Reserve
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Felt the same way all last season compared to most. #28 just clocks in and goes to work kinda like Gallman was for us just a tad faster.
Seldom Used Reserve
How long do you want to ignore this user?
I find it fascinating...guy averages over 6 a rush and no one mentions him...busts a clutch 89 yarder in big conference game and "story" is Tee Higgins running behind him...
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