Though Dabo Swinney believes Travis Etienne is finally getting the credit he deserves, the Clemson head coach still thinks his running back is underrated.
“I think he has been his whole career.” Swinney said Monday night during his weekly call-in radio show on the Clemson Tigers Sports Network. “He is special. The record he just broke has been there since the 70s.”
The record Etienne broke in this past Saturday’s win over Boston College is the ACC’s career rushing mark, which NC State’s Ted Brown held since 1978. The Jennings, La., native also became the FBS record holder for most games with at least one touchdown. Etienne has now scored at least one touchdown in 42 of his 50 career games.
Against Boston College, he scored two touchdowns, a 35-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass in the first quarter, and then on a 17-yard run in the fourth that turned out to be the game-winner.
“If you looked at Travis as a freshman and as a sophomore, it is not like he was getting twenty-five carries a game or something like that,” Swinney said. “He came in here very one-dimensional as a player. Tony has done a wonderful job with Trav and Trav has put in a ton of work.
“But he came in here as a one-dimensional player … hand him the ball and let him run. But he is now, as I said in the press conference the other day, he is a Swiss Army Knife. There is nothing he can’t do. What do you need? He’s got it.”
Etienne showed off his versatility against BC. Not only did the senior run for 84 yards on 20 carries, but he also caught seven passes for 140. His 140 yards broke his own mark for receiving yards by a running back which he set just a few weeks ago against Miami.
So far this season, Etienne already has 29 receptions for 434 yards and two touchdowns, nearly equally what he had in 15 games last season. Last year, he caught 37 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns out of the backfield.
Swinney says Etienne can do everything and more from the running back position … route running, pass protection, knowledge, understanding of the run scheme, patience, explosiveness, and the ability to throw the ball to him down the field.
“We doubled moved him. We got them playing man in empty, so we set it up early and we came back to it, so he double moves a guy, and he is catching balls down the field,” Swinney said.
Etienne is also running the football, too. He leads top-ranked Clemson with 606 yards and has scored nine rushing touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Those numbers are impressive considering how much teams are stacking the box and trying to take him out of the game.
The two-time ACC Player of the Year also has a 44-yard punt return and a 40-yard kickoff return to his credit as well. Etienne is currently second in the ACC with 1,124 all-purpose yards.
“There is really nothing he can’t do,” Swinney said. “He can return punts and he can return kicks. He is truly a complete player. And then the toughness and humility he has, I mean, you should see him practice. I mean, it is unbelievable to watch him practice. There is not an ounce of prima donna in that guy. As I say all the time. He is just a blue-collar superstar.”
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