Clemson has never been this loaded at running back

Clemson has never been this loaded at running back

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Clemson has never been this loaded at running back

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When comparing last year’s depth chart heading into the 2019 season with what Clemson has this year, it’s easy to see there is not much of a drop off, or any at all, in terms of talent and potential production in 2020.

This fall, the Tigers return 11 combined starters on offense and defense, plus its starting kicker and punter from a year ago, along with plenty of talented and experienced depth. Again, they are in perfect position to win the ACC and contend for another berth in the College Football Playoff.

However, the running back position is an area where many believed Clemson would have a drop off this year. However, Travis Etienne’s return to Clemson solidifies the running back room in 2020.

With the addition of five-star recruit Demarkcus Bowman, who enrolled at Clemson this past weekend, as well as four-star running back Kobe Pace, the Tigers now have six scholarship running backs on campus.

Redshirt senior Darien Rencher, a former walk-on, also decided to return for his final season at Clemson.

In its preseason magazine, Athlon ranks Clemson’s group of running backs as the best in the ACC and the second best in the country. With Etienne back and Lyn-J Dixon deciding to stick things out and compete this season with the talented sophomores and freshmen, Clemson is loaded with talent and experience at the running back position.

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-foot-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.

The two-time ACC Player of the Year 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 rushed for 4,038 yards, a Clemson record, and scored 62 total touchdowns.

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 this season 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 the 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. 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, S.C. 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 nearby Anderson has 238 career rushing yards.

Demarkcus Bowman, Fr., 5-10, 190: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has compared Bowman to former Clemson great C.J. Spiller. Bowman was one of the top running backs in the nation in 2019. He was a consensus top 25 overall recruit and the No. 3 overall running back in the nation according to 247Sports and Rivals. He averaged 11.1 yards per carry and scored 71 touchdowns in his high school career. The Lakeland, Fla., native finished his high school career with 5,081 yards and posted 26 100-yard rushing games. In 2018, he helped Lakeland to a 15-0 record and the Class 7A State Championship. This past season Lakeland went 12-1 and Bowman rushed for 1,570 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Kobe Pace, Fr., 5-11, 215: Pace recorded 1,471 yards rushing in 211 carries for a 7.0-yard average and added 25 receptions for 358 yards for 1,829 total yards from scrimmage as a senior in 2019. The Cedartown, Ga., native finished the year with 12 rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and two on kickoff returns. He also completed 3-of-4 passes for 100 yards and two scores. He was named the Region 5A Player of the Year. Pace was an all-state selection by Georgia Coaches Association and was named to the all-area team as well. An all-around athlete, Pace played football, basketball and baseball over his career at Cedartown.

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