The praise for freshman running back Travis Etienne continued on Monday, and this time it came from the head coach himself. Dabo Swinney said Etienne, along with cornerback Amir Trapp, has been the surprise of fall camp.
Etienne had already received high praise from his position coach Tony Elliott has well as fellow running backs Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster, while defensive end Clelin Ferrell has also sang his praises after last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Swinney admitted coaches never know what to expect out of a freshman until they get into camp and they start to watch them. Though the season has not started, Swinney says Etienne’s performance in camp this year is right up there with former Clemson running backs James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Andre Ellington when they were freshmen.
“He is right there with those guys,” the Clemson coach said. “He is a little different, but he has some attributes of Ellington. He is a very natural runner, faster, but he has some explosiveness of a Spiller. He has it all.”
In high school, Etienne rushed for 2,459 yards in his senior year on just 211 attempts. He averaged 11.7 yards per carry and had 35 rushing touchdowns and 39 overall. Like Spiller, Etienne played in a wing-T offense, but it also had some variations of the wishbone has well.
“He is just a kid coming from a different type of an offense,” Swinney said. “He is adjusting to the speed of it, the physicality of it.”
However, Swinney loves the freshman’s toughness.
“That is what I love. He is not scared. He is a tough, tough kid,” Swinney said. “But he likes it. When the ball is in his hand, he knows what to do with it. He has a great ability to make people miss in space. And then he just has a gear. He has a very special gear. He can go. He is his own guy. Ya’ll will like him. He is just going to get better.
“I’m really glad we got him.”
Swinney says Etienne comes from a good program where he played for longtime head coach Rusty Phelps at Jennings High School in Jennings, La.
“His high school coach, man, that’s what I love,” Swinney said. “He comes from a tough program. His high school coach has been there like twenty-something years. It is a small down. He was coached well in high school. You can tell.
“I have been just very impressed with him. But, again, like I said, until you start coaching them, you just don’t know. He surprised me in how he took to it. The physicality of it and he has done a good job.”
Swinney did add that Etienne is still listed as the No. 4 running back behind C.J. Fuller, Feaster and Choice.
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