Tony Elliott likes to give Travis Etienne a hard time. Clemson’s offensive coordinator wants to make sure he is keeping the Tigers’ all-time leading rusher on his toes.
That is why, when he sees Etienne make a play that makes him go “Wow,” such as this past Saturday’s 16-yard touchdown run against Virginia, Elliott wants to make sure his running back stays grounded.
“I say, ‘Wow, he is amazing’ to myself, but then I go into the meeting room and tell him he needs to get better,” he said with a chuckle.
One of Elliott’s favorite stories to share came during Etienne’s freshman year. They were playing at South Carolina when Etienne lined up in the slot and ran a hitch. Kelly Bryant threw him a spiral, and Etienne did not even get his hands up to catch it.
“The throw goes eight out of bounds, and he just runs straight off the sideline,” Elliott said.
Etienne is not running from the football these days. The Jennings, La.,native has developed into one of the best pass-catching running backs in the country. In this past Saturday’s win over Virginia, Etienne caught five passes for 114 yards and caught one touchdown.
The 114 yards set a new single-game record for receiving yards by a Clemson running back.
“I think just his confidence level has really, really improved,” Elliott said. “He has gone out there and worked on the repetition. The repetition brings the confidence.”
Etienne already has nine catches this season for 172 yards. His nine grabs are tied with Frank Ladson for second best on the team and his 172 yards rank third.
Last year, Etienne finished third on the squad with 37 catches, while his 432 receiving yards ranked third as well.
“The biggest thing for him is to continue to work on that aspect, without jeopardizing the other pieces of his game because he has to continue to work as a runner,” Elliott said.
Elliott, who also coaches the running backs, thinks Etienne still has to work as a runner because he still needs to get comfortable with all the different styles, routes and schemes that you have, footwork and the eye discipline.
“It is the same thing with his pass protection,” Elliott said. “I think his pass protection will continue to improve as he continues to gain more confidence in his upper body strength. It is just the repetition of doing it successfully to build his confidence.”
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