Travis Etienne chasing history, some all-time greats and records in 2020


by - Senior Writer -
Etienne will be chasing history in 2020.
Etienne will be chasing history in 2020.

The return of Travis Etienne gives Clemson fans the opportunity to witness a run at history and the all-time greats.

Let me start by saying this – I am hopeful and optimistic that college football begins the season on time and an entire season is played. I am with head coach Dabo Swinney in taking a positive outlook at this thing, so this article is based on the assumption we have a normal season.

I was watching a replay of the 2006 Rose Bowl this week (those teams were loaded) and saw the graphic where LenDale White and Reggie Bush combined for a truckload of touchdowns that season, and that made me pause the game and take a look at what Etienne has accomplished.

To recap, from the school website: Burst onto the scene as one of the nation’s most explosive running backs in 2017 and followed up with record-breaking 2018 and 2019 campaigns as a sophomore and junior … enters 2020 bowl season with 518 career carries for 4,038 yards (7.8 avg.) with a school- and ACC-record 56 rushing touchdowns plus 54 career receptions for 567 yards and six receiving touchdowns in 43 career games (40 starts) … enters 2020 as the Clemson and ACC career leader in rushing touchdowns (56), total touchdowns (60) and points by a non-kicker (372) and will open the 2020 season as the nation’s active leader in each category plus career rushing yards (4,038) … back-to-back ACC Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019 who became the first running back to win the award in consecutive years since Mike Voight in 1975-76 … is the only player in school history with multiple 1,500-yard rushing seasons and is one of only 16 Power Five players since 2000 to reach the 1,500-yard mark in multiple seasons, joining AJ Dillon, Ameer Abdullah, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Darren McFadden, Ezekiel Elliott, Jonathan Taylor, Ka’Deem Carey, Kendall Hunter, Lamar Jackson, LaMichael James, Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball, Ray Rice and Steven Jackson … set single-season school records in 2018 in rushing yards (1,658), yards per carry (8.1), rushing touchdowns (24), total touchdowns (26) and points scored (156).

That’s impressive, and it’s made even more impressive when you consider that he averaged 13.8 attempts per game in 2019, 13.6 attempts per game in 2018, and 8.23 attempts per game in 2017.

Etienne enters the season ranked 18th all-time with his 56 rushing touchdowns. That puts him one score ahead of Tony Dorsett (Pitt), Chester Taylor (Toledo), and DeAngelo Williams (Memphis). He is tied with Ken Simonton (Oregon State), Collin Klein (Kansas State), and Steve Owens (Oklahoma).

The opener against Georgia Tech offers the first chance to track down the leaders. His first score will tie Etienne with Tim Tebow (Florida), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), and Myles Gaskin (Washington) with 57. Two scores put him even with Ian Johnson (Boise State) at 58 and three scores takes him all the way to tie for 12th with Eric Crouch (Nebraska) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) at 59.

A similar season to what he had a year ago (24 touchdowns) puts him at 80, while a comparable season to 2018 (19) still puts him close to second on the all-time list behind Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (88) and first on the all-time list for running backs.

Montee Ball (Wisconsin) had 77 rushing touchdowns for second on the all-time list and first for running backs. Travis Prentice (Miami, OH) had 73, while Ricky Williams (Texas) and Kenneth Dixon (Louisana Tech) each had 72. A solid season might give Etienne the chance to vault into the top-five by no later than the rivalry game against South Carolina.

In fact, Devin Singeltary sits at No. 6 all-time with 66 and if Etienne reaches that point he would have passed Cedric Benson (64; Texas), Ron Dayne (63; Wisconsin), and Donnell Pumphrey (62; San Diego State).

One caveat - there is no doubt that Etienne is helped by the fact that he has been able to play in 30 games over the last two seasons and 13 during his freshman season. At 43 career games, Etienne will have more career games than any other person on the list once he reaches the 12th game of the season. Of course, he also has less touches than the others, so it all evens out.

In terms of career rushing yardage, Etienne is at 4,038 career yards. A 1,600-yard season would put him at 5,638 rushing yards, which is good for 8th all-time, which is right behind Charles White (USC) and Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin). He also needs just 565 yards to become the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing yardage.

Each week should provide a new milestone and a new spot in the record books. Bring on the season.

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