There are some out there who believe Travis Etienne has not had the kind of year they expected from the two-time ACC Player of the Year.
Dabo Swinney is not one of those people.
The Clemson head coach said Monday on the ACC Network’s Packer & Durham Show that his star running back has had a great year and his greatness is not necessarily driven by big numbers. However, Etienne did put up big numbers against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, as he rushed for 124 yards and scored on a 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the Tigers’ 34-10 win.
“He was awesome and really took it upon himself to be ready,” Swinney said.
But Etienne’s 100-yard afternoon in Charlotte was the first time he went over the century mark in eight games.
“Listen, Travis Etienne has had his best year as a Tiger,” Swinney said. “Everybody thinks about Travis and rushing and this and that and, obviously, you saw that the other night. But he is closing in on 1,000 yards, he is not that far from it. Maybe he will get that here in the postseason.”
Etienne has rushed for 882 yards and has scored 13 touchdowns. Granted, it is not the 1,600 yards and 20-plus touchdowns he has had in each of the last two seasons. But it does not mean he is having a bad season.
The Jennings, La., native is more than just a runner this year. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has found creative ways to use him in the passing game, especially when teams have loaded up the box and dared the Tigers to throw it.
Etienne has broken all of C.J. Spiller’s records for a running back in the passing game. He is third on the Clemson team with 44 receptions for 524 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 11.9 yards a reception.
And Elliott just isn’t calling for screen passes out of the backfield, either. He has Etienne running routes and lining up out wide. He has shown off his versatility in a lot of different ways.
Others are noticing because the Associated Press voted him as their second-team all-purpose player on its All-ACC Football Team Monday. Etienne is the only player in college football this season to run for 800 yards and receive for 500 more. He is only the fourth player to it do in the same season in the last 20 years.
Etienne was also selected as the first-team’s all-purpose player and running back by the conference on Tuesday. The ACC Player of the Year in both 2018 and 2019, Etienne has accounted for 1,598 all-purpose yards this season while scoring 15 touchdowns.
“This has been his best year as a Clemson Tiger because he has become a complete player and what he has done, he is the only guy to do what he has done in college football in rushing and receiving,” Swinney said. “The last player to do it was Saquon Barkley and what he has done this year has only happened four times in twenty years.
“It is different. He is catching passes downfield. He is out of the backfield … we are screening it to him. It has been unbelievable. So, when I say he has had the best year of his career, it is not even close.”
And though the fans and media may not have noticed what Etienne has done and how special he has been, the people who matter the most have.
“Those pro scouts recognize that too and that is why he will be the first back taken when the draft comes,” Swinney said. “He is a complete player. He can beat you in so many different ways. His knowledge, his understanding. He is still a gifted runner. He always is, but he is a Swiss Army Knife now and that makes him dangerous.”
Clemson will play Ohio State on New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff.
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