When Travis Etienne signed with Clemson in February, Tigers coaches said he would need to immediately compete for playing time with only three other scholarship running backs on the roster.
It is safe to say Etienne is doing that.
The Louisiana native has been impressive throughout fall camp and appears poised to get some opportunities in 2017. Etienne is battling with C.J. Fuller, Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice for playing time and is outperforming the three more veteran players in some areas.
“As a runner he’s probably looked the best in camp, just breaking tackles, making plays. He’s definitely the quickest,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said Thursday. “Travis has been getting a lot of reps, and I tell you what, he’s fast, he’s quick. He has a great feel, a natural runner.”
Etienne was also heavily recruited by LSU, a team that churns out NFL running backs, and he rushed for 2,459 yards while averaging nearly 12 yards per carry as a senior at Jennings High in Louisiana.
“The difference with Travis and what Travis has been able to do over the rest of those guys is he’s been able to find some home runs,” Elliott said. “If you go just off production in camp he’s been the most productive in terms of making plays in the run game.”
Etienne is wearing the same No. 9 jersey that Wayne Gallman did at Clemson.
“Physically he looks like Wayne… Their styles are different. Wayne was a downhill, powerful guy. He could get to the second level, but he didn’t have that third level home-run ability. Travis has that all,” Elliott said. “I’d say that right now at this stage of his career his eyes are better than Wayne’s were when he was a freshman. He sees it. He sees the cutback. He sees the field. And that’s something you can’t teach. I’d say he’s a more natural runner.”
Etienne is being challenged to improve his consistency and work on his pass protection early on in his career.
“Is he the most dependable? By far he’s not the most dependable. There’s just so much he has to learn,” Elliott said. “Lining up in pass protection and identifying all those crazy blitzes that (Brent) Venables is bringing, now he’s got a lot of work to do there… But he’s flashing as a runner. We’re very, very pleased there. It’s my job to grow him up as a pass protector.”