CLEMSON — For three weeks now, Clemson has grinded through the dog days of summer throughout fall camp and for three weeks now, two running backs have dominated all of the headlines.
Travis Etienne continues to take off with his unmatched explosiveness. By all accounts, he continues to be a handful.
Lyn-J Dixon, Etienne's freshman understudy, has turned many a head for his unmatched speed and natural instincts.
But what about Tavien Feaster?
The junior running back from Spartanburg and the 2017 Clemson football team's starter for the majority of last season, has largely slipped under the radar all summer long. Part of that is due to a summer meniscus injury that put his camp off to a late start as he wore a yellow jersey reserved for injured players. But the other part of it is the consistent hype his counterparts have drawn for how much they have challenged him for the starting running back role.
Now, Feaster is out to prove he is still worthy of keeping his job and shouldering those first-string reps. Now, he feels like all of the pieces might be finally coming together for him in Year 3.
"Definitely, definitely," he said. "I'm feeling this year is a year I'm going to start taking better care of my body, be better in the weight room and better in film study. I think it's going to be a pretty good year for me."
Feaster, who was placed tied for second on Clemson's preseason depth chart alongside Adam Choice, was demoted from his top spot coming out of spring practice and seems to have handled it well.
That honor went to Etienne, who set Clemson's record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman in 2017 and simply outperformed him. Clemson running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott pointed to consistency and explosive productivity as the main reasons for the switch, and Feaster understood it. Whether Etienne is the Game 1 starter against Furman next week remains to be seen, but Feaster knew where he stood at the beginning of this fall camp practice and is feeling more compelled than ever to state his case.
"He earned it and he's a hard runner, a hard worker. So he earned it," Feaster said. "But it's always motivating."
To Feaster's credit, he has his body in the best place it has been since arriving on Clemson's campus two years ago and Elliott thinks that will build confidence. Down from 224 pounds previously to 210 now, he is feeling more explosive in the way he runs.
Perhaps he will get his spot back. Perhaps he won't. But either way, he shouldn't be overlooked for much longer if all goes according to plan.
"I really, really like the push from the other two guys and that has caused Tavien to have to elevate his game and that's one thing I think (I'm) challenging him (with): Just to go out and dominate and be the player that he's capable of being," Elliott said. "He's a guy where when he hits the open field, nobody is going to catch him. But he's different from Travis in that Travis is very explosive initially."
Different indeed — but craving the same thing.
Alex Spence and B.T. Potter still have a little bit of time to make up ground, but if Clemson's season were to open today, it would be Greg Huegel suiting up as Clemson's starting kicker, said coach Dabo Swinney. Huegel has separated himself from the pack since his return to the field following a September ACL tear. His accuracy has been in the 80-percent range, while Spence's has been in the high-70s.
"(Huegel) has had a great camp," Swinney said. "Alex has had a good camp and Potter is right there doing a nice job, but Greg has really separated."
The media spent the first seven periods of Clemson's practice observing the Tigers on their final day of fall camp. Tight end Milan Richard was pummeled during a kickoff return drill, but was able to walk off on his own and appeared OK. Cornerback Mark Fields was in a yellow jersey for injured players, but Swinney was unavailable to confirm what Fields is working through.