COLUMBIA – Tavien Feaster is four practices into his career at South Carolina and, along with every player in the Gamecocks’ running backs room, still working for a starting spot.
He arrives and is immediately thrust into a competition with three seniors, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman knowing only two of those six backs will handle the bulk of the running back responsibilities.
But even if Feaster doesn’t take a snap in Columbia, Thomas Brown likes the competitive edge he’s made the other running backs play with in practice the last few days.
“They know who he is, they’ve seen him play before,” said Brown, who coaches running backs. “Just putting him in from a meeting room standpoint to taking reps from other guys who had reps before and seeing him make plays just makes you up your level of competition and game overall.”
Feaster spent the last three seasons as a rotational back at Clemson and comes to South Carolina with an opportunity to become the team’s feature back if he beats out guys like AJ Turner, Rico Dowdle or Mon Denson.
Bringing in a guy who was a part of two national championships also has been an eye-opening experience for some of the young guys like redshirt freshman Deshaun Fenwick, who now gets pushed by the three seniors and Feaster after an inconsistent spring practice.
“The more guys we can continue to add to the room to push guys and show positive examples of what it takes to be successful, the better off the room will be,” Brown said. “With Deshaun, it’s about having more confidence. In the springtime he was more up-and-down. If he felt good and things were going good, he was good. Once things didn’t go well, he needed extra encouragement. Spending time with Marcus Lattimore has been great for him from a mental development standpoint. He’s had a different mindset so far this camp.”
Feaster officially announced his commitment right before fall camp started and was cleared to begin practicing Saturday, the second day of drills, after treating an infected tooth.
Now his biggest challenge is getting acclimated to the team’s playbook and getting to know his new teammates, some guys he competed against during his time at Clemson.
Brown said learning the playbook hasn’t been a problem so far — he raved about Feaster’s preparation — and said three years of experience helps him pick things up a little quicker.
“I think it helps he’s played ball at a high level so he can get adjusted really fast. He’s a really smart football player, smart player in general, so he picked the system up fast. I would think it’s about getting in football shape, adjusting to our system and gelling with our players, which I think is going well so far.”
Any time a graduate transfer comes in, the potential is there for some dissention and friction in the locker room.
There was some of that with Lavonte Valentine putting his name in the transfer portal Tuesday — Will Muschamp said he assumes Valentine did that looking for more playing time — but so far Brown hasn’t noticed any players harboring ill will toward the team’s newest skill player.
“I think he’s at times laid back and a to-himself kind of guy, but he’s also very humble. The times I’ve seen him, he’s been great around our players,” Brown said. “We’ve embraced him completely. It’s been publicly out there once he announced that he’s going to be a part of our team, our guys have embraced him so far.”