A little over a year ago, Dabo Swinney approached Vic Beasley and said 'let's make a deal.'
Up until then, the former Adairsville, Ga. high school star's college career had been a muddle, and there was no real sign that it was going anywhere.
Both Swinney and Beasley were frustrated.
"What I kept seeing in Vic was that we didn't have a better athlete on the team, with his great length and quickness and the ability to change direction suddenly," Swinney said.
"I had a lot of frustration and a lot of doubt in my first two years," Beasley acknowledged.
Swinney proposed that for three months last fall, Beasley would commit himself fully to playing and developing as a defensive end, where he had worked experimentally in the spring. If it didn't work out, Swinney promised Beasley a chance to move to running back for his final two seasons.
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The proposition caught Beasley by surprise.
"I'd never even thought about it," said Beasley of the move to defensive end. "I expected to be a running back or a tight end. Being a defensive end had never crossed my mind."
What happened next ended up being one of the 2012 season's most pleasant surprises.
In his role as a part-time player and speed-rushing specialist, Beasley led the Tigers in quarterback sacks with eight, and ranked among the top five in the ACC.
Beasley had finally found a home on the field. But he was just getting started.
"Vic was a running back and quarterback in high school," Swinney recalled. "He played a little bit of linebacker, but not a lot. He came here, and we were thinking about putting him as a tight end, but I just didn't think he was very natural there.
"I moved him to linebacker in the spring (of his redshirt freshman year), and he didn't take to it very well. He just really wasn't in the mix there. So
I called him in one day and said 'how about becoming a defensive end?'
"He just looked at me. He's such a good kid that he said 'OK, I'll do it,' but I really don't think he had his heart in it or was passionate about it. I think in his mind, he was still wanting to go back to offense."
The experiment last fall turned into a permanent move, and since then Swinney has seen a world of difference in Beasley, on and off the field.
"He's become a leader for us," Swinney said. "It's really amazing - if you had told me two years ago that Vic would be emerging as a leader for us up front...that would have been hard to believe at the time.
"But he came out of last season with so much confidence. That's what just a little success can do for people. He wasn't ready to be an every-down type of guy yet, but the success that he had went a long way with him.
"Since then, he poured himself into the off-season and put on some really solid weight. He's 235 now, and he's still emerging. Put another 10 or 12 pounds on him, and he's going to continue to get better and better. His fundamentals and his technique continue to improve. He's a fourth-year junior now that's matured. He's not young any more - he's a full-grown man."
Beasley said he learned a great deal about the game, and about himself, during the 2012 season.
"I came into this year more determined - my expectations are higher," Beasley said. "I learned a lot just by playing. I learned to use my quickness and speed. Everything just seems easier this year."
Swinney says Beasley's added weight has allowed him to round out his pass-rushing game. So far this season, he has five sacks - just 0.5 out of the national lead - and he's pressuring the passer in a variety of ways.
"He's a handful," Swinney said. "He can run around people. He can up-and-under people. And now he can bull people. He's strong enough and long enough that he can get into people without them getting into him, and he pushes the pocket.
"Even if he doesn't get the sack, he's still creating pressure."
Beasley's favorite pass-rushing move is what he calls the 'dip-and-rip.' He said he rarely used it during his three-sack performance against N.C. State. He's finding that as opponents focus on containing his speed, new avenues are opening up to him.
"The dip-and-rip is my go-to move, but actually I'm only using it every now and then," Beasley said. "I think people look at my film from last year and see my speed, so that's how they play me, more than the inside power move. I think that's keeping the offensive line off balance."
Most pleasing to Swinney is that Beasley is becoming more than just a pass rusher.
"What Vic's not getting enough credit for is what he's doing for us in the run game," Swinney said. "He's sticking his nose in there, and he's making some plays that other guys don't make, running things down from behind. He's bought into the importance of being a run-stopper.
"Vic wants to play every down. He feels like he belongs, and he feels that hope and sees a future for himself. He really just wanted to be able to impact the team. Now that he's doing that, he's on his way, and he's having a lot of fun...and he's really now just scraping the surface of what he can do."