CLEMSON — This summer, David Beasley saw opportunity.
Clemson’s sophomore guard played only 16 snaps as a freshman, but he saw the chance for more – much more – while battling with fellow sophomore left guard Kalon Davis for a starting role.
“I didn’t want to look at myself and feel like I let my chance slip away,” Beasley said in mid-September.
As Clemson’s regular season draws to a close, it’s clear that Beasley has taken full advantage of his opportunity. He has started nine of 10 games at left guard, missing the Furman game due to a knee injury. And while his play has been up and down, he was named the Tigers’ offensive lineman of the week for his standout play against Maryland.
“I think that really helped me,” Beasley said of those who questioned him. “I had to prove I could be a dominant player at Clemson, and I wanted to show I could be a good player. (The doubts) helped me, because I had to work hard and show I could do it. I set aside some of the stuff I was doing before I became a starter. I started to focus on football and school and became a better player.”
In September, Beasley said he previously didn’t have the maturity level required for success, calling himself “lackadaisical” and “lazy.”
This summer, he rededicated himself to football, training hard under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Joey Batson in 90-100 degree heat. He lost 25 pounds, going from 335 to 310 while also improving his diet.
Now, he’s part of a much-improved offensive line which has been a key to an improved overall offense.
“I think that this offensive line has gotten better than what it was, when w were first starting,” he said. “I was one of the questions. Whether I would be good enough to start or play a game against spectacular teams. I feel like we are better. I feel like experience we had and I feel the coaching we’ve had has been spectacular.”
Beasley says he’s best at run-blocking, and has also improved his stamina. Keeping his technique when he gets tired later in games has been a major point of emphasis.
“I think (improvement) has been both physical and mental. You’ve got to prepare yourself to play,” he said. “I’ve played 10 games, you’ve got to be physically prepared for that. And mentally figuring out how fast the game moves, how fast you need to move.”
Coaches continue to push Beasley. Following a subpar effort against Duke, offensive coordinator Chad Morris said he was rotating players in and out of his left guard spot before the Maryland game.
The motivation clearly paid dividends with Beasley’s best game of the season.
“They pushed me pretty hard in practice, and I think it was all love,” Beasley said of his coaches. “They love us out there, want us to be at our best potential so they push us as hard as they can. They use anything they can to push us.”
Not-so-happy returns: Last week, coach Dabo Swinney issued a challenge to the Tigers’ kick and punt return teams.
“If we’re going to make a run at the end of this season and be special, our return game has got to improve,” he said. “Guys have got to take a little more pride in doing their job, holding guys up. That’s one area where we should be better.”
The Tigers’ longest kick return this season is 39 yards, which came from sophomore Sammy Watkins. Watkins averaged 25.3 yards per return as a freshman, but averages only 19.8 per return this season. Tailback Andre Ellington averages 25.5 yards in three returns, while sophomore wideout Martavis Bryant averages 20.7 in nine returns. New NCAA kickoff rules which moved kicks from the 35 to the 40 and send touchbacks to the 25 have had an impact on returns as well. Meanwhile, sophomore Adam Humphries has served as the main punt returner. He averages 5.6 yards per return and had a costly error last week, muffing a punt which set up Maryland’s only touchdown.