Going into his freshman and sophomore seasons, Travis Etienne wasn’t exactly known as one of the nation’s best running backs. Headed into 2019 however, that’s exactly how he is now viewed.
Etienne’s ability as a ball carrier is well documented. He has developed into a back that makes quick decisions, hits the right holes, and plays with tremendous pace. While so many of today’s running backs are dancing around in the backfield, Etienne is decisive. Add in a sprinter’s speed, and if he gets through into the open field, forget about it.
The Tigers featured a stable of three backs in 2018, all with plenty of experience. Only four times last season did Etienne have 15 or more carries in a game, as the coaches were able to keep him fresh throughout the season. With Adam Choice now playing on Sunday’s and Tavien Feaster having transferred out, that leaves just Etienne and sophomore Lyn J Dixon as guys with much experience.
It stands to reason that his workload is going to increase in 2019 due to depth. After experimenting with different playing weights over the spring, Etienne is basically the same weight he was this time last year. However, he’s added upper body strength and lowered his fat, recently estimating his body fat to be around the ten percent mark.
As great as Travis has been running the ball, there are other areas he is still working to improve on. His pass blocking and his ability to make plays out of the backfield in the passing game are the two biggest.
With Feaster and Choice both gone, Etienne is now the elder back on the team. He won’t be able to come off the field in passing situations the way he has in the past, so it’s imperative that he has improved in his pass protection.
As far as making plays in the passing game goes, that’s something we haven’t seen a whole lot of in this offense. These days the NFL puts a premium on running backs that can make those type of plays, so he’ll need to take advantage of the few opportunities he does get.
By all accounts, it seems Etienne is much improved in both areas. If that’s the case, the sky is the limit. He’s been so good over his first two seasons that it’s scary to think about him being even better. Watch out for a monster season from the Tigers junior running back in 2019.