After Clemson lost to LSU in last season’s national championship, Clemson running back Travis Etienne had a decision to make. Forgo his senior season at Clemson and enter the NFL Draft, or come back to Clemson for one final season.

After not being satisfied with the grade he received from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee, Etienne chose to play his senior season at Clemson. Coming back not only gives the running back a shot at improving his draft stock, it also lets him finish up his schooling and earn his degree.

Coming back also gives him a shot at becoming the best running back the ACC has ever seen, and Etienne is aware of the number of records he could potentially break as a senior. However, it wasn’t something the back to back ACC Player of the Year was fully aware of until a conversation with his mother just after making his decision.

“It kind of dawned on me after my decision, I was just kind of home,” Etienne said during spring practice. “My mom had called me and she kind of like just mentioned it to me. It was just really mind blowing.”

In last April’s NFL Draft there were 16 running backs taken, only one of which was taken in the first round. One of the goals for Etienne in 2020 is to solidify himself as that first round pick next April.

According to 247 Sports, Etienne is the favorite to come off the board first at the running back position in the 2021 NFL Draft. On top of his running abilities, the Tigers could need even more out of Etienne in the passing game this season with Justyn Ross out for the season.

Travis Etienne was already valuable to Clemson, but his role in the Tigers’ 2020 offense took on an even bigger meaning June 1 when junior wide receiver Justyn Ross was ruled out for the season with a neck injury, congenital fusion. The unfortunate news made the running back’s return for his senior season in 2020 even bigger — following Ross, Etienne is actually Clemson’s top returning receiver after catching 37 passes for 432 yards (11.7 average) and four touchdowns in 2019.

247 Sports

The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder took 207 rushes for 1,614 yards (7.8 average) and 19 touchdowns through all 15 of the Tigers’ games. One of the keys in whether or not the Tigers return to the College Football Playoff national championship game, Etienne is imperative for the offense’s post-Ross efforts. But the biggest year yet could be coming for Etienne, the former four-star recruit out of Jennings (La.) High, who was the 247Sports Composite’s No. 213 overall prospect and No. 15 running back for the 2017 class.

247 Sports

In his three seasons Etienne has rushed for more than 4,000 yards while averaging almost eight yards per carry. Something not seen very often from a running back with the number of carries he has (518).

It isn’t all about the numbers and draft status with the Tigers star running back though. While those things are certainly important, he also wants to get better, help his teammates find success on the field, and to go out a winner.

“I definitely just want to finish off the right way, with a win,” Etienne said. “Just continue to improve my craft, becoming a pro in my position. Being able to teach a position to anyone, on any level of football. So just coming back, and just being a pro at the position, and mastering my craft.”

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