Isaiah Battle takes his second chance and runs with it

'There are consequences for your actions. I can't just go out and punch somebody in the street. I could go to jail'

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO
Clemson’s Isaiah Battle is shown against North Carolina State at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., in September.

Photo by Ken Ruinard, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO Clemson’s Isaiah Battle is shown against North Carolina State at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., in September.

Isaiah Battle says that educational opportunity was a high priority when he chose Clemson as his college destination.

Little did he know how all-encompassing his learning experience would be.

Take, for example, a life-lesson learned back in September that, against the odds, is bringing tangible benefits today.

Caught up in the heat of the moment, egged on by a mouthy N.C. State opponent, Battle delivered an uppercut that got him ejected from the game and slapped with a one-game suspension.

And as far as Dabo Swinney's doghouse was concerned, Battle was buried so deep he couldn't even see the entrance.

"What happened was a total embarrassment to this program," Swinney said then. "It was a poor, poor decision and a classless act...He'll not ever make that mistake again, not here at Clemson."

Battle, who was coming off a spring and preseason in which he failed to seize his opportunity for a starting job on the Tigers' offensive line, got the message, loud and clear.

The 6-7, 275-pound sophomore took the opportunity to turn his season, and perhaps his career, around. He worked his way out of purgatory and back into the Tigers' front-five mix, and, when Gifford Timothy was plagued by a chronic, and eventual career-ending, knee injury, he beat out Shaq Anthony for the job as Clemson's right tackle, where he'll start in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State.

"Honestly, I lost my head," Battle recalled after one of the Tigers' practices last week. "What I did was very selfish. It was a big mistake, and it won't ever happen again.

"There are consequences for your actions. I can't just go out and punch somebody in the street. I could go to jail. I took full responsibility for it. I apologized to the player and to my university.

"After that game, my attitude and preparation changed. When the coaches saw that change, things started looking up for me. I learned that I can control myself and still play with a hard edge."

Battle said that lesson has opened the door to a season of on-field learning.

"The biggest thing I've learned this year is about preparation," Battle said. "You have come every day, because you never know what's going to happen. I'm practicing hard every day. I'm trying my best to take the coaching well. I'm working on my steps and footwork, and trying to do whatever's best for the team. I've learned both sides, so that I'm available to do whatever we need.

"I'm learning to play lower and to use my weight and height better, learning to get to the next level faster. I feel like I'm progressing every day. Being consistent in effort has been the biggest thing."

After playing just 32 snaps in a five-game mid-season stretch, Battle has started the last three games and has posted winning grades.

"South Carolina game I graded out at 89 percent," he said. "Against Georgia Tech, I was at 90-something - a winning grade. Against Citadel, I only played about a half and was at 80-something percent."

Battle likes his role as a starter, and the added responsibilities that accompany it.

"I like being a starter - I like that on my shoulders," he said. "We're going to lose a few people after the next game, so it's time for me to be a leader and to grow up.

"The plan is for me to move back to left tackle in the spring. But it will definitely be a matter of what's the best fit for the program, and who else is better at each position. I'm practicing every day on both sides."

Battle said his improved performance has been a function of his increased understanding.

"When the season started, I wasn't as confident," said Battle. "I didn't have a great IQ for the game. I didn't quite understand where the linebackers were going to be, and what's my point. Now I'm a lot more confident. I've done my homework and I study every day. I know the playbook and I know my assignments.

"I'm playing faster and more aggressive. I can go both sides and am confident that we can run the ball."

Swinney compares Battle's situation to that of defensive end Vic Beasley a year ago - on the cusp of a career-changing breakthrough

"That makes me feel great," Battle said. "Beasley came on, the light came on for him, and he's become a great player. That's an honor to me for him to say that. It makes me feel like I'm doing my job and that I'm really coming along."

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Comments » 1

BlueRidgeBengal writes:

Glad to hear he's matured as person and player. we're gonna need some leaders up front next year.

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