Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travis Etienne in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft (No. 25 overall) with a specific plan in mind for the former Clemson running back.
Meyer revealed that plan Saturday, telling reporters Etienne will take all his reps in rookie minicamp at wide receiver as the Jaguars look to maximize his skillset and make him a true dual-threat player in their offense.
“That’s the reason we drafted him is the opportunity to be a dual-threat guy,” the Jags’ head coach said. “Our history is always we’ve had a guy like that, and we saw him as that guy in the draft this year.”
The ACC career record-holder in several statistical categories, including rushing yards (4,952) and rushing touchdowns (70), Etienne knows what he is doing when it comes to carrying the ball out of the backfield.
So instead of lining him up there in minicamp and having him do more of the same things he did over the past four seasons with the Tigers, Meyer and his staff believed it made more sense to put Etienne out wide, let him gain as much experience as he can running routes and allow him to work on the receiving element of his game that can help him get on the field more as a rookie – with Jacksonville already having a couple of solid options at running back on the roster in James Robinson and Carlos Hyde.
“He’s the leading rusher in ACC history, so for him to run inside zone and power and zone right now, we thought let’s just … At the worst-case scenario, you have a running back with the skillset of a wide receiver,” Meyer said of Etienne. “Best-case scenario, you have a hybrid player that can do both, and that’s what we’re hoping to develop out of Travis.”
One of only 12 players in FBS history with 4,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards, Etienne made strides as a pass-catcher over the course of his Clemson career, going from catching only 17 passes for 135 yards in his first two seasons to recording 85 receptions for 1,020 yards in his final two campaigns.
Of course, Etienne will get some carries in Jacksonville’s offense, but honing his craft as a receiver should allow the Jaguars to create different sub-packages with Robinson and Etienne and have them both on the field at the same time.
“Right now, we’re focusing on the fundamentals of wide receiver play, learning the offense from wide receiver,” Meyer said of Etienne. “And like I said, worst-case scenario you have a running back that’s elite with receiver skills. Best-case scenario, he’s a legitimate dual-threat guy.”
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