Being a running back for the Clemson Tigers has always been a big deal. Clemson has produced many great running backs through the years.
Two-time All-American and ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne is the best Clemson has ever produced. He already holds several Clemson and ACC records and this week needs just 43 yards to break the ACC’s all-time career rushing record.
Even before his time, Etienne was flashing stardom from his early stages, playing behind Wayne Gallman and sharing time with Tavien Feaster at one point.
This season, it is Lyn-J Dixon, who has once again seemed to be the primary backup to Etienne. However, the backup position is technically still completely up for grabs with other running backs getting a similar workload. Dixon has put together a solid season to this point, but he has been nowhere near his consistency over the past couple years. With his average yard per carry down from 6.1 last season to 3.5 this season, Dixon has yet to break out.
“I thought that the other day was his best game,” said offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott. “He had one instance where I’d like to see him not bounce to the outside and get up in there hitting the hole for positive yards. We only had a couple tackles for loss given in the game and one of those was on Lyn-J because he didn’t read the play and predetermined it.
“But I thought he was doing exactly what I asked him to do and overall he’s had his moments where he’s done a good job of playing the system and doing the dirty work. I know it’s out of his comfort zone because he is a guy who’s fast and likes to get out on the edge. He’s done a good job at times, he’s solid at pass protection.”
For Elliott, he’s seen Dixon flash his true potential on the field, but knows there’s more work to be done with the junior running back. As a veteran in the running back room, in particular Elliot is looking to find more consistency in Dixon’s play. Finding this consistency would be a huge benefit for the team’s immediate and long term success.
“Technique and consistency are what we want to see from him,” Elliott said. “He’s the second oldest in the room, so to speak, from an experience standpoint and has played the most football behind Travis. The biggest thing for him is challenging him to not worry about Travis, improve his game, understand the system and understand what he needs to improve and to fit into the system.”
Being a backup in the Clemson offensive system is not a small role to play, especially if you’re a running back. With the workload the backups get and the all-American in Travis Etienne playing ahead of them, there are pressures that build up to not only succeed, but excel as well. While the other running backs such as Dixon, Chez Mellusi, Michel Dukes, Kobe Pace and Darien Rencher may not try to emulate their game after Etienne’s, they most certainly look to produce like he has.
“I don’t think they’re looking at Travis and want to be Travis,” Elliott said. “They all want to produce and they want to help the team win. They want to have big plays in the running game and be solid in their pass protection and sometimes they can just press too much.
“We all know what Travis is capable of, a lot of times he can turn nothing into something. I think some of them can do that at the same time too, but they’ve also got to trust the system and not try to always do too much to force the big play. They want to have success and have some big plays.”
It is without question Etienne’s last season playing for the Clemson Tigers. Having Dixon and a group of young highly skilled backs is definitely a plus for Elliott and Clemson. Seeing this group progress and forge their own path as running backs is something we can further expect to see this season and in the near future.
Another championship season is underway for the Tigers. It’s time to gear up for another year of Clemson football.
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