Just like last season, Clemson’s running backs have an opportunity to be one of the strengths of the Clemson offense.
Tony Elliott likes the physicality of his running backs and where they are heading into fall camp, which begins in August.
In 2017, pass protection from the running back position was not at its best. Wayne Gallman, who was a master in pass protection, spoiled the offensive coaches in 2015 and ’16 with his knowledge, his physicality and his ability to read defenses.
Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator, who also coaches the running backs, saw marked improvement from his guys last year. However, he wanted to see his running backs become more physical at the point of attack, but also play a little smarter as well.
It was no surprise that veteran Adam Choice, a rising senior this fall, had the most success in pass protection in the spring, but Elliott liked what he saw from junior Tavien Feaster and sophomore Travis Etienne as well.
“Choice is a guy who is ahead, and he should be, because he is the oldest guy and has the most knowledge,” Elliott said. “You see him trying to be more physical.”
Coming into the preseason, Etienne will be the Tigers’ No. 1 running back, with Choice and Feaster tied for the backup spot. Perhaps the Jennings, La., native moved up to the depth chart because being physical is not an issue. However, understanding what he was seeing and using the proper technique last year had been Etienne’s weak spot, but that changed in the spring.
“Travis, I’m really seeing an effort to use the technique we are trying to use,” Elliott said. “Travis is a contact kid, a physical kid, but he is still 195 pounds and he has a tendency to drop his shoulder.
“Now I think he is buying into the fact that if I use proper technique then I can get my whole body involved as opposed to just my shoulder.”
Elliott said Feaster has a better mentality of understanding what he is seeing and being more aggressive.
“I have seen Tavien, as well, have a better mentality of just attacking the line of scrimmage,” the Clemson coach said. “Now, he has to do a better job of bringing his hands. A lot of times he just relies on his 225 pounds, but to be able to hold up, if he continues to improve in bringing his hands then he has a chance to be really good.”