Travis Etienne: The One That Got Away

  • Tony Thomas


Travis Etienne. The one that got away. As LSU prepares to take on Clemson in the national championship game, Etienne is the one player on the Clemson sideline that makes LSU Coach Ed Orgeron sick to his stomach every time he has success on the field.

Etienne, a 5′-10″, 210 pound running back from Jennings, Louisiana, rushed for 7,518 yards and 103 rushing touchdowns in his high school career. He was the Class AAA Offensive MVP as a junior after rushing for 2,933 yards and 40 touchdowns. As a senior, he rushed for 2,459 yards and 40 touchdowns.

Too Little Too Late

LSU was not aggressive in recruiting Etienne. Four games into the 2016 season, LSU fired its head coach Les Miles. Orgeron was a defensive line coach with the Tigers and was promoted to interim head coach to guide the Tigers for the rest of the 2016 season. LSU was recruiting other running backs and the Tigers were afraid they would lose those players if they offered someone else.

The Tigers had made scholarship offers to running backs Cam Akers (signed with Florida State), Najee Harris (signed with Alabama), and D’Andre Swift (signed with Georgia).

Coach O did offer Etienne a scholarship, albeit very late in the recruiting process. He made an in-home visit with Etienne and told him how much LSU wanted him. But it was too little too late. Etienne had made up his mind.

Etienne had scholarship offers from Clemson, Texas A&M, and Tennessee. He committed to Clemson, the last recruit to do so in the 2017 class. He signed his letter of intent with Clemson in January 2017. He would be the first Louisiana player to sign with Clemson since 2003.

LSU would eventually sign only one running back in their 2017 class, Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Travis Etienne. The one that got away.

Freshman Year, 2017

In his freshman year at Clemson, Etienne rushed for 766 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 7.16 yards per carry. In his first game against Kent State, he scored a touchdown and rushed for 81 yards on just eight carries, averaging a little over 10 yards per carry.

Etienne rushed for 100 yards or more just once in his freshman year, but he had five games in which his average yards per carry was 7-yards or more.

Sophomore Year, 2018

In 2018, Etienne’s sophomore season, he rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging a whopping 8.13 yards per carry. He had seven 100-yard rushing games and one 200-yard rushing game. In nine games that season, his average yards per carry was 7-yards or better. In a three-game stretch against #15 Syracuse, Wake Forest, and N.C. State, Etienne rushed for three touchdowns in each of those games.

Clemson went undefeated in the regular season and secured a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP). In a 30-3 win over Notre Dame in the national semifinal game, Etienne had 14 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson would then face Alabama in the national title game. Etienne rushed for 86 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns as Clemson won their second national championship in the CFP era with a 44-16 beatdown of the Crimson Tide.

Travis Etienne. The one that got away.

Junior Year, 2019

In 2019, the defending national champions picked up right where they left off. They laid waste to all teams on a schedule that ranked as the 66th toughest schedule in the country and had zero Top 25 opponents.

Etienne had six 100-yard rushing games and two 200-yard games. He had two games each with three rushing touchdowns, and seven games with 7-yards per carry or better. His longest run from scrimmage was a 90-yard touchdown run against Georgia Tech in Week 1.

But there was a bump in the road along the way, a one-point win at North Carolina. Etienne was held to less than 100-yards rushing but did score a touchdown. The game went down to wire and Clemson escaped with the victory after a failed two-point conversion cost the Tar Heels the win.

Clemson secured yet another spot in the CFP and took on the Ohio State Buckeyes last Saturday in the national semifinal game in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. Clemson was down 16-14 at halftime but came roaring back after the break. The Tigers outscored the Buckeyes 15-7 in the second half. Etienne scored Clemson’s first points in the second quarter and scored 3 touchdowns in the game, two in the second half. He scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter.

Etienne finished the game with 134 total yards: 36 rushing yards and 98 receiving yards, averaging 10 yards per play.

A Stellar Career

For his career at Clemson, he has 3,960 yards rushing and 55 touchdowns and 531 yards receiving and six touchdowns. His total yards from scrimmage currently stands at 4,491 yards and 61 touchdowns, averaging a stellar 8.1 yards per carry.

Etienne will face the flagship school of his home state on January 13th on the biggest stage. Is this a chance for Etienne to show LSU and 76,000 of their loyal fans what they have missed out on the last three years? Yes, absolutely.

Will Etienne return to Clemson for his senior year? That remains to be seen. His name has been listed in several NFL mock drafts in recent months.

Travis Etienne. the one that got away. Indeed!

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