The Underrated Clemson Star: Travis Etienne

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How can one of the best running backs in ACC history be underrated? The FBI couldn’t solve this mystery. It’s hard to imagine that Clemson star running back Travis Etienne could be underrated when he has won the conference’s offensive player of the year in back-to-back seasons. But when it comes to the Clemson Tigers, Trever Lawernce gets all the attention, rightfully so. But it’s the running back who is the engine to the shiny sports car.  

Travis Etienne was Clemson University’s final commitment in their 2017 class. Etienne was ranked the 114th overall prospect and the 13th-ranked running back by ESPN. At Jennings High in Louisiana, he rushed for 2,459 yards and 35 rushing touchdowns. LSU, Tennessee, and Texas A&M were chasing him. But at the last minute, he signed with Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. 

Being overshadowed by Trever Lawernce hasn’t stopped the running back from producing. Etienne finished last season, rewriting the Clemson record book. Coming into the 2020 season, he had a record of 4,038 career rushing yards. Etienne had 62 touchdowns, 56 of those rushing touchdowns, both of which are ACC records before a 2020 game. He has only added to those records thus far in the season. He now is the leading rusher in ACC history, breaking a 42-year-old record. Single season records include rushing yards, rushing TDs, and total TDs, and yards-per-carry. 

With Lawrence out with covid, Clemson needed every bit of Etienne’s heroics on Saturday. He showed why he is the second most important player. The senior ran for 84 yards with a touchdown and grabbed seven more receptions for 140 yards and another score in the 34-28 win. 

Etienne is a game-changer. He has the home run ability, change of burst, and acceleration. NFL teams love his big-play threat, and that can take it the distance at any point. He always keeps his legs churning and bouncing off the first contact for extra yards. His determination for growth as an overall football player is above most. As a receiver in 2019, he showed the ability to cleanly catch the football and take advantage of opportunities to create for himself in space. Clemson is one of the best screen teams in the country, and it’s in part to his catching improvement. 
 

While the running back position had diminished in the first half of the decade, it seems to be making a comeback. Etienne frequently wiggles out of tackles and is willing to be physical in pass protection. As passing becomes more prevalent, pass blocking is as vital as running in between the tackles. The player that Travis Etienne compares to most is New Orleans Saints superstar Alvin Kamara. Kamara just broke the bank with a new contract. They have similar size and share similar elite traits, such as the speed, acceleration, and contact balance they bring to the table. Etienne is a first-round draft pick; while the superstar QB gets all the headlines, the NFL knows Etienne’s worth to a winning culture of Clemson Tiger Football.

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