C.J. Spiller believes Clemson running back Travis Etienne can break 2,000 yards this coming season. That is what the former Clemson legend said earlier this week prior to the Sharone Wright Benefit Golf Tournament at the Walker Course in Clemson.
“I think he is a legit high 4.3 guy and I have seen where he has (lost) some weight, so from the clips I have seen, I am really excited,” Spiller said. “I will be really surprised if he does not eclipse 2K this year.”
Etienne has rushed for more than 1,600 yards in each of the last two seasons, but that was with the Tigers playing 15 games. Etienne has averaged 109.1 yards per game over the last two years.
For the two-time ACC Player of the Year to reach the 2,000-yard milestone, he would have to rush for 142.9 yards per game this season, and that is if Clemson makes it all the way to the national championship game, again.
Also, Etienne will already play in one less game this season due the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the regular season by one game.
“I actually was telling Coach [Dabo] Swinney this (on Sunday). Normally, you have a fast guy, or you have a power guy like James Davis,” Spiller said. “But Travis is one of those guys that is a combination guy. He is a combo. He has speed and he has power. As a defender that is hard to defend because you don’t know what he is going to do.
“He has that combination. Now, I am not going to say he is as fast as me, but he has that heat lightning. He does not have that strike of lightning,” Spiller continued. “That heat lightning is pretty dangerous, too, though.”
That might explain why Etienne is already Clemson’s all-time leading rusher and needs just 565 yards to break Ted Brown’s ACC rushing record for a career. Brown set the mark of 4,602 yards from 1975-’78 at NC State.
Etienne would likely already own Brown’s record and might have eclipsed 2,000 yards in each of the last two seasons had it not been for the fact Clemson had most games won by the start of the second half. In 24 of the last 30 games, Etienne has been taken out of those games at the latest in the fourth quarter and in most of those cases his day was done early in the third quarter.
“Like with me, people pretty much knew I was going to try and outrun you or shake you,” Spiller said. “If I had to put my head down to get a third-and-two, I would, but with Travis, you literally don’t know what he is going to do because he can run you over and then he is fastest enough that he can run outside and around you. He is very unique.”
Etienne can also catch the football, something Spiller highlighted when he was asked to give his scouting report on the Tigers’ All-American running back. Last year, Etienne caught 37 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns.
Those pass catching numbers were the best by a Clemson running back since Spiller caught 36 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns in 2009.
“I think his passing catching ability is getting a whole lot better and his pass protection is getting a whole lot better and that just comes with repetition and recognizing where the blitz is going to come from,” said Spiller, who will be inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame later this year. “I think he and Trevor [Lawrence] have a good repour on recognizing the blitzes and Trevor can kind of point him in the direction where the blitz might be coming from.
“As a running back, that helps a whole lot when you know where guys are coming from.”
Spiller says Etienne is a great guy off the field, too. He likes the fact he has a good head on his shoulders, and he likes the way he approaches the game.
“He is a student of the game. He understands how a defense tries to play him and he uses that to his advantage,” Spiller said. “He is a very unique running back, honestly.”
Of course, Spiller will put his scouting report on the Tigers’ leading rusher to good use after accepting a graduate coach position on Swinney’s staff. Spiller will help running backs coach and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott with the running back this fall.
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