Clemson football: Recent history shows how underutilized Travis Etienne is

Travis Etienne Clemson Tigers (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Travis Etienne Clemson Tigers (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Clemson football running back Travis Etienne could have been even more dominant during his college football career.

Travis Etienne will leave Clemson football as the all-time leading rusher in school history and with just 600 yards in 2020 will leave as the all-time ACC rushing leader. However, one could easily argue that he has been severely underutilized by offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.

Monday, Rubbing The Rock posted an article about an anonymous ACC coach stating that Etienne still had things to work on that he has not proven that he can be “the man”. As Shawn Spencer pointed out in his article, the Tigers have not needed him to be the man.

However, looking back over the last four starting running backs as well as a couple of quarterbacks, you see just how underutilized that Travis has been and why coaches would question a running back that has averaged more than seven yards per carry during his career.

Coming into his senior season, Travis Etienne has had just three games where he tallied at least 17 carries and two of those he had at least 20 carries. While he probably appreciates not being run into the ground like Johnathon Taylor was at Wisconsin, there is a difference between having 900 carries in three years like Taylor did and having 500 like Etienne does.

Usage of former running backs C.J. Spiller, Wayne Gallman, Andre Ellington, and Roderick McDowell as well as quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson show just how underutilized Etienne really is.

C.J. Spiller is and will be the all-time yards leader in Clemson football history. While Travis has eclipsed his rushing yards, Spiller was used in every facet of the return as well. He left Clemson with more than 7,000 yards of total offense.

During his career from 2006-2009, C.J. had five games where he carried the ball at least 20 times. While that may not seem like a lot, remember he was also heavily involved in the passing game as well. His five games of at least 20 carries are still twice as many as Travis has entering his senior year.

Andre Ellington wore a Clemson football uniform from 2009-2012 and had 12 games were he carried the ball at least 20 times in a game.

Roderick McDowell played alongside Ellington for most of his career and yet still managed to have three games where he had at least carries. It’s crazy that a guy that was a career backup still had more 20 carry games than the school’s all-time leading rusher.

Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson formed one of the most formidable backfields we have ever seen in college football. They were dangerous and could take it to the house on any given touch because of their talent and execution.

Gallman and Watson combined for 16 games in which one of them had at least 20 carries – Gallman with 11 and Watson with 5. Yes, even quarterback Deshaun Watson had more 20 carry games than Travis Etienne has had in his career.

Despite leaving as the ACC all-time leader in passing touchdowns and second all-time leading passer, even former Clemson football quarterback Tajh Boyd had as many career games with at least 20 carries. When you look at games in which they tallied at least 18 carries, Boyd had seven career games while Etienne has just three.

Running Travis Etienne more would have helped Clemson football versus LSU

The last time Travis Etienne touched the ball against LSU in the national title game against LSU, he scored a touchdown that brought the Tigers to within three points, 28-25. During that drive, he had four carries for 16 yards

Despite averaging more than five yards per carry, he never touched the ball again against LSU. Clemson would have four punts and a fumble on their final five drives. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott completely dropped the ball and ultimately cost Clemson another national title when he made the decision to remove Etienne from the game plan.

As we know, post-game Elliott acknowledges his mistake and everyone is hoping that he learns from it.

We get it, the coaching staff likes to build depth and likes to reward hard work with playing time where possible. However, getting your best players on the field and the bulk of the playing time should be just as important so that when you are in games like Ohio State or LSU, your guys have the legs and experience when you cut down the roster exponentially.

Next. Tigers elite quarterback run started 20 years ago. dark

Yes, there is a lot of talent at Clemson, but Travis Etienne is among the best to ever walk the halls of Death Valley and should be rewarded for that as well.