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Palmetto State Production

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley currently leads the nation with eight sacks.

There is a defensive end in the state of South Carolina whose name alone evokes feelings of sheer terror for offensive coordinators around the south.

Athletically speaking, there are few players in the country who can match up with this dynamic defensive end. Using his elite speed and quickness, he made an immediate impact in the Palmetto State, registering eight sacks in his first season of extended action.

Since that time, he has only continued to progress as a pass-rusher, becoming the most productive sack artist in the country thus far in the 2013 campaign.

If you assume that I am talking about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, you may want to think again.

Though most of the aforementioned attributes also apply to Clowney, all the way down to the eight sacks in his first season, the player being described is Clemson redshirt junior defensive end Vic Beasley. 

Clemson has spent the last few seasons desperately searching for a difference-maker on the defensive side of the football.

College football fans throughout the country certainly remember Clemson’s defensive meltdown over the second half of the 2011 season, a meltdown which culminated with Tigers giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

Elite class of 2011 linebackers Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony were expected to provide a quick fix to the Tigers’ defensive deficiencies. To this point, however, neither players’ career has gone as originally planned, although Anthony has developed into a quality starting linebacker.

Playing as a linebacker and running back in high school, the scouting report on Beasley prior to his voyage to Death Valley was that he was a freak athlete who still needed to fine-tune his technique. After two seasons utilized to add additional strength and tighten up his technique coming off of the edge, Beasley has gradually developed into arguably the most-feared pass-rusher in all of college football.

Of course, it wasn’t too long ago that Beasley hadn’t even found a full-time position at Clemson.

A self-proclaimed fan of offense, Beasley was hoping to find a home on offense early in his college career. Many of the colleges which had recruited him when he was a senior in high school had planned to wait until getting him on campus to make a decision on a future position if he were to commit to their institution.

Upon matriculating in Death Valley, Beasley initially found himself bouncing back and forth between a multitude of positions, including stints at running back, tight end and linebacker.

When approached with the idea of permanently moving to defensive end prior to the start of the 2012 season, Beasley was initially hesitant. Some coaxing from head coach Dabo Swinney was potentially the only thing which prevented him from causing a commotion over his new home.

After experiencing some success during a 2012 season in which he starred as a pass-rush specialist, Beasley decided to commit himself to becoming the best defensive end he could be over the offseason.

Realizing that his frame was too small to handle the wear and tear of a full ACC schedule, Beasley took to the weight room to add an additional 10-15 pounds of muscle to his frame. He also spent more time working on the fundamentals of the position than he had ever done previously in his career.

The dividends from his hard work have been immediately visible in 2013.

Through five games, Beasley leads the FBS with eight sacks. The two next-closest players – Colorado State’s Shaquil Barrett and Western Kentucky’s Xavius Boyd – are currently 1.5 sacks behind.

Beasley’s sacks have not come by proxy of feeding off of inferior competition either. The lone game in which he failed to record a sack this season was the South Carolina State contest, a game in which he played limited snaps.

In Clemson’s season-opening win over No. 5 Georgia, Beasley was primary reason the Tigers were able to slow down the Bulldogs’ offense in the second half, as he came up with two huge sacks to halt drives.

Against NC State on a Thursday night, Beasley stole the show with three sacks, leading Clemson to a win in its first conference game of the season.

Beasley registered one sack in the Tigers’ subsequent contest with Wake Forest, and followed that up with a pair of sacks in Clemson’s most-recent game against Syracuse.  

Doing all of his work against Clemson’s best competition this fall, Beasley has put to rest the notion that his early production was a fluke.

NFL Draft analysts have also validated his status as an elite physical specimen, as he is currently projected as a first- or second-round pick in the 2014 Draft.

So while the majority of the country continues to focus on the numerous storylines swirling around the University of South Carolina’s star defensive end, just remember that it is a Clemson defensive end who has clearly established himself as the most-dominant defender in the Palmetto State right now.

With his supreme athletic talents and improved fundamentals, there is no reason to suspect that he is in danger of losing that distinction anytime soon either.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.