CLEMSON – Vic Beasley realizes what he’s chasing and what he’s earned.
The Clemson junior defensive end entered the fall of 2013 with much promise, and has fulfilled all of it with nine sacks (the national leader) and a few game-changing plays the past two weeks against Syracuse and Boston College. Beasley earned his third ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week honor Monday, the latest in a line of accolades for someone who might be in his final few months in orange and white.
“Yeah, I have given some thought to it,” Beasley said Monday. “But I’ll just wait until the end of the season to decide if I’m going to leave or if I’m not. Just focusing on the year right now.”
ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has rated Beasley the eighth-hottest prospect in the 2014 crop at any position. Underclassmen who have spent three years in college can apply for draft grades after the season, and must declare their intent to leave or return by February.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has long been considered a candidate to enter the 2014 NFL Draft with one year of eligibility remaining, the way DeAndre Hopkins did. But Beasley has soared onto the radar as an elite pass-rusher.
“Yeah, this all came real fast,” Beasley said. “My years at Clemson have flown by. It’s just been a great experience for me. If I do decide to leave, I’m going to leave a legacy here. There’s going to be a lot of memories.”
At 6-3 and 235 pounds, Beasley figures he won’t be on the front line as a professional. Kiper tabbed Beasley as suited for a 3-4 defense, and Beasley agrees.
“My endurance can be a lot better. I feel like I’m going to be the type of guy that’s an outside linebacker if I do go to the next level, just being able to run down plays from the back side, to stand out somehow,” Beasley said.
But with his concentration still solely on the current year, Beasley is eyeing the Tigers’ program single-season record of 16 sacks, set by Keith Adams in 1999. He’s seven sacks away, with at least seven games remaining, so he’s ahead of the pace.
“That’s my goal,” Beasley said. “It was kind of a goal at the beginning of the year, but seeing how I’ve progressed, it’s pretty close, so it’s become more of a goal.”
With one last day to wrap up analysis of the Tigers’ sloppy 24-14 win over Boston College, offensive coordinator Chad Morris expressed his displeasure at the fumbles, missed field goals and failed red zone chances which precluded Clemson from doing more with their 496 total yards.
“This is not our style. When we’re on the field, we’re on the field to go score points,” Morris said. “I don’t care if we get 100 yards or 700 yards, we gotta put the ball in the end zone.”
The tone was set when Clemson went 12 plays on the opening drive, only to stall on the goal line and watch sure-footed kicker Chandler Catanzaro whiff on a 25-yard field goal attempt.
“There’s a lot more room for improvement. We had a few missed deep balls and stuff like that,” wide receiver Adam Humphries said. “If we’d get that down pat, we could be throwing up crazy numbers on offense. But we can’t hold our heads down. We’ve just got to correct it and improve from there.”
Quarterback Tajh Boyd fumbled twice Saturday, and tailbacks Roderick McDowell and Zac Brooks each coughed one up to the Eagles.
“It’s just something we haven’t done. We haven’t turned the ball over. Those are things we just don’t do,” Morris said. “Uncharacteristic of us to do that last week, and we let them hang around. The more they hang around, the more momentum they get.
“It’ll definitely get some guys’ attention in a hurry.”
There’s only so many straight faces the Tigers can feign when addressing No. 5 Florida State as just another opponent on the schedule.
While Clemson’s coaches preach a consistent midweek effort on the practice field regardless of the matchup, they won’t try to stop the players from enjoying the hype without getting sucked into it.
“Hey, it’s on. This is what it’s about. It’s what you coach for,” Morris said. “As a kid, this is what you grow up as a kid playing to be in a top-five matchup. There’s not many opportunities you have in a coaching career that you get this moment. Same way from a playing standpoint. Heck yeah, it is a big deal. Our guys are excited about this opportunity to be on a big stage again, the second time this year we’ve been on a stage of his magnitude.
“I’m jacked up right now. I’m ready. Heck, yeah,” Morris said. “But that’s my personality. I was excited last week. This is just another opportunity for us to get better, going against a great opponent.”