When the Clemson offense stepped inside the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson on Friday to begin preseason camp, the numbers 9 and 16 were on the field. However, for the first time in three years, they were being worn by people not named Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence.
The No. 9 jersey is now owned by tight end Jake Brinningstool, while freshman quarterback Will Taylor is wearing the No. 16 jersey.
Lawrence and Etienne are now teammates in Jacksonville, where they are getting ready for their first preseason game in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. For the last three seasons, the two former Tigers were considered the best one-two punch in college football.
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in this past April’s NFL Draft, threw for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns in his three years as the Clemson quarterback. He guided the Tigers to a 34-2 record as a starter, including a 15-0 season in 2018, as the Tigers won the program’s third ever national championship.
Etienne finished his Clemson career as the ACC’s all-time rushing leader (4,952 yards), scorer (468 points) and touchdown producer (78). He also holds the league’s all-time record for rushing touchdowns with 70.
“It is definitely a difference,” Clemson left tackle Jordan McFadden said. “Those two are two great players and I hope they do well in the NFL.”
But Lawrence and Etienne are gone, and Clemson as turned its focus to 2021. Lawrence, of course, is being replaced by D.J. Uiagalelei at quarterback, while it appears Lyn-J Dixon, Kobe Pace and freshman Will Shipley will battle to see who fills Etienne’s shoes at running back.
“I am excited about what I have behind me,” McFadden said. “D.J. and Lyn-J, Kob and all the other running backs, and all the other quarterbacks for that matter, I’m just excited to block for those who are behind me.”
Head coach Dabo Swinney was excited to finally be able to get things going and that everyone was together, and they could get off to a normal start.
“One thing I can tell you, for me, is that it never gets old,” said Swinney, who began his 13th season as the Tigers’ head coach. “There is so much [that has to happen] to get to this point and so much to kind of get going, but it absolutely, it never gets old. I love every aspect of it. Even the crappy stuff you have to do to get to this point and get ready to go play football and go coach football. I love it.”
No one has coached Clemson better than Swinney. Besides leading the program to two national championships, he has won seven ACC Championships, 10 bowl games and has a 140-33 record. Now he and the Tigers are ready to do even more damage in 2021.
“I am really proud of our guys. It has been an incredible off-season,” he said. “You say, ‘How do you compare that?’ Well, we have a lot of quantitative data, as far as how we can compare teams and where we are from a maturity standpoint, just like we have with our season stuff.
“But where are we in the weight room? Where are we with our conditioning? Where are we with our leadership? Where are we with our chemistry? There are a lot things that go into that in the summer. That is why we call it the transformation phase. I think teams make their biggest leaps during the time when the stands are empty, and they are here. All they have is each other.”
—photo by Dawson Powers