There is no doubt, Clemson has one of the best running backs in the country in Travis Etienne. The reigning ACC Player of the Year rushed for 1,658 yards and scored 26 touchdowns a year ago.
However, thanks to the departure of Tavien Feaster, Etienne is the most experienced running back the Tigers have in the backfield. Backing him up will be sophomore Lyn-J Dixon, who showed flashes of what he can do when he gets his opportunities, and redshirt junior Darien Rencher, a former walk-on.
This summer, true freshmen Chez Mellusi and Michel Dukes added to the depth chart. Mellusi is a former 4-star recruit out of Naples, Florida and was one of the top running backs in the country coming out of high school. Dukes played at First Baptist School in Charleston and was ranked by 247Sports as one of the top 50 running backs in the country.
“We are very fortunate that we have young talent,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Lyn-J had great moments last year, but he is going to be a really good player. I think it starts there, with Travis and Lyn-J and then we have to figure it out.”
Dixon ran for 547 yards and scored five touchdowns in 2018, while averaging 8.8 yards per carry. His longest run of the season was a 65-yard touchdown in the Tigers’ 63-3 win at Wake Forest.
Rencher has played in just 10 games in his career and has 24 career carries for 103 yards.
“We are really fortunate to have him. He will be a junior. He is a young man we put on scholarship and he is a very productive player for us,” Swinney said. “He will take advantage of his opportunity and then you figure it out with Chez and Dukes.
“You see where those guys are and hopefully, one of those guys can contribute like Lyn-J did last year, like Etienne did as a freshman, like Feaster did as a freshman. This is no different than any other year.”
The good news for Clemson, they got Etienne and Lyn-J to start with. The bad news is they don’t have the situation they had the last two years when they had Adam Choice and Feaster to lean on as well.
“You know what you are starting with and that is a pretty good spot to start with Etienne, Lyn-J and Darien, and you hope that one of those freshmen or both of them can be good contributors,” Swinney said.