Travis Etienne’s return to Clemson solidifies the running back room for Clemson in 2020. What was thought to be a question mark this coming season, it is now a position of strength for the Tigers.
“We are just super pumped,” Swinney said. “We are excited to have him be back and graduate in December and leave here as one of the greatest backs probably in college football history by the end of this year. So, let’s go! 2020, let’s go! New decade! It is pretty cool to kickoff this new decade with Travis Etienne in the backfield.”
Etienne, who won the ACC Player of the Year Award in 2018 and 2019, joins a long list of Clemson players, who many thought were headed to the NFL early, that decided to return to school for one more season.
“I think it speaks to the example that has been set by a lot of other guys before him. Whether it was all the way back to C.J. Spiller, to Mike Williams coming back, to Isaiah Simmons, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant … the value of education is a huge thing,” Swinney said. “I just think that was a bigger pull than what his opportunity at the next level is right now.
Etienne, who already owns just about every Clemson rushing record in the book, now has an opportunity to re-write the record books in the ACC, as well. The 5-10, 210-pound running back is just 565 yards shy of breaking the ACC’s all-time rushing record and 795 yards short of becoming the all-time leader in yards from scrimmage.
He already holds the ACC records for total touchdowns in a single season and a career, as well as rushing touchdowns in a career.
Etienne has already rushed for 4,038 yards, a Clemson record, and scored 62 total touchdowns.
Here is a look at Clemson’s running back depth heading into spring practice (note: these are players who are currently enrolled in school and on the active roster).
Travis Etienne, Sr., 5-10, 210: Though he has put up big numbers, Etienne has just 518 career carries. He is averaging 7.8 yards per carry with a school- and ACC-record 56 rushing touchdowns plus 54 career receptions for 567 yards and six receiving touchdowns. He has played in 43 games and currently has 40 starts. He enters 2020 already as the Clemson and ACC career leader in rushing touchdowns (56), total touchdowns (60) and points by a non-kicker (372) and will open the 2020 season as the nation’s active leader in each category plus career rushing yards. After some struggle in pass pro at UNC, Etienne took it up another notch and by the end of the year he was on the field for all three downs a lot of the time. He also became a significant threat out of the backfield, catching 37 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns. All three numbers ranked third on the team in 2019.
Lyn-J Dixon, Jr., 5-10, 190: Like Etienne, Dixon can run with power and speed. He continued to grow last season as the No. 2 running back. He became a better pass blocker and was a threat out of the back backfield. He enters the spring with 1,182 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 166 career attempts. He also has 162 yards on 15 catches during his 28-game career. His 7.2 yards per carry average ranks second behind Etienne’s 7.8 in Clemson history. Last year, Dixon ran for 635 yards and scored six touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes out of the backfield for an additional 121 yards.
Chez Mellusi, So., 5-11, 200: Mellusi ran for 276 yards and scored three touchdowns as a true freshman last year. He did most of it sharing the duties as the Tigers’ third string running back. He is expected to challenge Dixon this spring for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. He played in 11 games last year. Came to Clemson as one of the top running backs in the nation and one of the top overall players from the state of Florida. He ran for 3,905 yards and scored 50 touchdowns in high school and 4,409 all-purpose yards with 55 overall touchdowns.
Michel Dukes, So., 5-10, 195: Like Mellusi, Dukes will compete to be the Tigers’ No. 2 running back. He played in 10 games last season and rushed for 150 yards and scored two touchdowns on 32 carries. Dukes came to Clemson a little more raw than Mellusi, which is why Mellusi is listed ahead of him by The Clemson Insider. Ranked by 247Sports as one of the top 50 running backs in the country coming out of high school, Dukes ran for 8,762 yards and 117 touchdowns during his career at First Baptist School in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the SCISA Player of the Year and the Low Country Player of the Year as a senior.
Darien Rencher, *Sr., 5-8, 195: Rencher earned a scholarship last season. The former walk-on played in 13 games, while running for 135 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He also had four catches for 26 yards. One of the team leaders and the team spokesman for Clemson’s PAW Journey, Rencher has played in 23 games in his career as a running back and on special teams. The former T.L. Hanna standout from Anderson, South Carolina has 238 career rushing yards.
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