By: Hussam Patel
Juice's Top Running Backs Series
Travis Etienne is one hell of a running back. Clemson’s all-time leading rusher was projected to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, but instead opted to come back for his senior year to improve his craft, which he decidedly accomplished. There were minor concerns about his pass protection issues, and he improved upon this; he got much better at protecting Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei. Etienne is a highly explosive, well-balanced, big-time play-maker adding value every time he’s on the field.
What makes Etienne so dynamic? He has a low center of gravity and bounces off tackles to gain more yards. He can also turn on the jets to accelerate and beat linebackers in the middle of the field, he uses his vision to creatively find gaps and run routes, and he has elite lateral movement to execute cuts and counters. There is no one quite like him; he’s incredibly elusive, agile, and explosive. Those traits are always on display when his teams needs to move the sticks.
It’s easy to see his speed jump out on the screen, but what goes unnoticed is his body adapting to angles on a dime and cutting away from defenders. He squares his shoulders and loosens his hips to balance his core and finish the play. He makes good linebackers look lost, and routinely puts them on skates in the passing game. Against the University of Miami and Wake Forest, he caught numerous screen passes behind the LOS and weaved his way for easy 10-15 yard gains.
Etienne did have some issues in Pass Protection in 2019, but he got better at picking up blitzers in 2020. However, college linemen and NFL linemen are completely different. He’ll need to learn how to properly identify which blitzers are coming free and protect his QB. Also, Etienne might not see a lot of playing time in the beginning of the season as his workload at Clemson was that of a traditional three-down running back. He would pair up in a RB Committee to freshen up his legs and not get worn down.