Day three of the countdown of the top 2018 Heisman Trophy candidates continues with an extremely explosive player from a perennial national title contender: Clemson running back Travis Etienne. Previously, we went over the Heisman chances of Jalen Hurts and Adrian Martinez.
#25: Jalen Hurts
#24: Adrian Martinez
When Wayne Gallman left Clemson for the NFL, the Tigers had to replace a key member of their offense. Travis Etienne was a big part of that as a true freshman last season, and he could emerge as a Heisman contender in 2018.
Why he can win it
It only takes one play to see the type of ability Travis Etienne has. He has exception acceleration and top-notch breakaway speed, and there aren’t many better home-run hitters at the running back position than him. This season, Etienne should be even more comfortable with the offense after a year of experience, which could lead to a bigger role after he had 103 carries last year. Etienne’s 744 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns led the team in 2017, and he’d put up some huge numbers with more opportunities if he keeps his yards per carry up around the 7.2 it was last season.
Why he won’t win it
The big issue with Etienne’s Heisman chances this season is that he might not get nearly enough work. Teammate Tavien Feaster is also very talented, and the two split work in the backfield last season (they each had 103 carries). Though also explosive, Feaster is the bigger back of the two and may ultimately handle most of the load for Clemson in 2018. Feaster himself could also emerge as a Heisman candidate if he gets a heavy workload.
What needs to happen
Etienne needs to lead the backfield in carries (which would also mean less carries for quarterback Kelly Bryant) and contribute as a difference-making returner on special teams. Also, he needs to continue making the one-cut-and-to-the-house big plays that he did for Clemson as a true freshman.
160 CAR | 1,168 RUSH YDS | 16 RUSH TD | 7.3 AVG
20 REC | 220 REC YDS | 3 REC TD | 11.0 AVG
18 KR | 430 KR YDS | 1 KR TD | 23.9 AVG