Travis Etienne was arguably the best running back in the country in 2018.
A scary thought for the rest of the nation — and in particular Clemson’s opponents this upcoming season — the Louisiana native still believes he can get a whole lot better.
Etienne had the best season by a running back in Clemson history as a sophomore, rushing for a program-record 1,658 yards on 204 carries. His 8.1 yards per carry average was also a school record, and his 24 rushing touchdowns were the most in the nation.
Etienne finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting last season and is a candidate entering 2019 as well.
If you have seen Etienne at all this offseason, it is crystal clear that he was far from satisfied after helping Clemson to a national title last season. The rising junior has clearly added muscle heading into what could be his last season at Clemson after finishing last year weighing 203.
“I want to play around 212-213. … I feel pretty good about it, too,” Etienne said this spring. “I feel like I put on the right weight through workouts and stuff.”
Etienne ended the spring at about 212 pounds, and he appears much stronger now than he was at any point previously in his career. He already excelled at breaking tackles, and that should continue with his added muscle.
Etienne has other areas he hopes to improve as well.
With the ball in his hands, the 5-foot-10 speedster is electric, but he is spending this offseason focusing on becoming a more complete back.
“From a receiving standpoint, get better at my routes and work on my hands,” Etienne said. “Last season Trevor (Lawrence) threw me a couple of balls and I just kind of dropped them. I just get nervous I guess. The ball’s coming. The defender, I always feel like he’s right there. I try to run before I catch the ball and get spooked by my surroundings.”
More concentration should help Etienne in the passing game and in the pass-blocking game, which is another emphasis for Etienne this summer.
With last year’s team leader Adam Choice gone and senior Tavien Feaster transferring for his final year of college football, the coaching staff has also challenged Etienne to grow as a leader.
“I definitely have to get better and better at it. I’m kind of just a guy, I stay to myself. I don’t really say much,” he said. “I’ve just always been to myself, so going out there and putting myself out there to be able to lead and take guys along with me, I’m definitely going to have to work at it.”