Find another number!!! Swinney breaks down Etienne's decision to return


by - Senior Writer -
Etienne has a chance to become the ACC's all-time leading rusher.
Etienne has a chance to become the ACC's all-time leading rusher.

CLEMSON – Running back Travis Etienne shocked the world in late January when he made the decision to return to Clemson for his senior season, but it’s a decision that head coach Dabo Swinney thinks will pay off in the end. It also means several players will have to wait a year for the coveted No. 9.

Etienne will enter the 2020 season with his legacy at Clemson already secure. He ranks as the most productive running back in program history, having rushed for a school-record 4,038 yards and 56 touchdowns. He needs only 565 yards to break the Atlantic Coast Conference career rushing record that has been held by N.C. State's Ted Brown since 1978.

Many assumed that Etienne would enter the NFL Draft, and while his decision shocked many, it didn’t come as a surprise to Swinney.

“The answer is no. I was initially surprised a little bit because he really told me before the bowl game that he was really leaning to the coming back,” Swinney said Wednesday. “Usually when I meet with these guys, we have a ton of information and Woody (McCorvey) does a great job in really kind of managing all that and meeting with the scouts and getting the grades and really getting a detailed report on exactly where these guys are. Exactly where they are, and it’s just very important.”

Swinney said that players in the past have discounted the information given to them.

“Sometimes it’s a waste of my time. So, I always ask them about their mindset because I have had some guys, it doesn’t matter what I tell them,” Swinney said. “I had some guys that I’ve told, ‘You’re not going to be drafted,’ and they’ll look at you and say ‘I think I will,’ and they leave. So, okay, you know at the end of the day they’ve got to make the decision and they have their mind made up. So there’s really no sense in us sitting around having a big in-depth conversation if they’ve got their mind made.

“And then sometimes you have guys that see the bigger picture, and some guys are patient. Some guys are not patient. Everybody’s motivated by different factors and they have different dynamics in their lives and whatever. It’s really unpredictable that way.”

Swinney and Etienne had a conversation before the Fiesta Bowl in which Etienne indicated he wanted to return.

“He was really leaning that way,” Swinney said. “I said, ‘Well, why is that?’ and he told me why. I said, ‘OK, we’ve got a conversation that we need to have. Here’s this information and let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about what that means.’ So I wasn’t surprised he said after the bowl game, ‘Hey, I’m coming back.’”

The College Advisory Committee, which includes high-level personnel evaluators from NFL clubs and directors from the league’s two sanctioned scouting organizations (National Football Scouting and BLESTO), advises underclassmen on their draft prospects before they make a formal request to the league to join the Draft. The Committee said that Etienne received a second-round grade.

“If he leaves here as a second-rounder next year, he’ll do cartwheels,” Swinney said. “He’s got his degree. He feels ready. He just feels complete. I think leaving early for him as a second-rounder, I think he felt a little incomplete.”

Swinney said that while Etienne finishes his degree and continues to push for the NFL, the Tigers and the fans get to watch another year of the best running back in college football.

“I think he’s the best back in the country. Period. But obviously I’m pretty biased when it comes to that,” Swinney said. “But he’s got a great future ahead of him and I’m excited about the fact that he’s back. He’ll be a great leader. He’s been awesome already. I think he’s got a chance for this to really, really pay off for him. It’s nice to know he’s back

“I’d already given his No. 9 away. I had about 10 people who wanted his No. 9. These old boys are vultures around here with numbers. So, I had a line of guys that wanted nine, and I was like, 'Yeah not so fast. You will have to find another number.'”

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