CLEMSON — Clemson running back Travis Etienne has reinvented himself since the Tigers' one-point win over North Carolina. Well, maybe he hasn't reinvented himself as much as he went back to the Etienne that the coaching staff had come to know.
“Travis Etienne has been the spark. He has been awesome. He has been almost unstoppable,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. I’m just super proud of him, and again, the offensive line has done a great job all year. They really have.”
In fact, that spark has led to the Tigers' offensive explosion the last three week, in which they have amassed 306.7 yards per game on the ground — good enough to rank fourth in college football, with only Navy, Air Force and Georgia Southern, three triple-option schools, ranked ahead of the Tigers.
But before he could be the Tigers' 'spark' he first had to change his mind.
"Yes, no doubt (his mindset has been different)," co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. "Travis has really done everything I've asked him to do with exception of not using the pass protection technique I wanted him to at UNC ... I think that was something he needed. He needed to try his own thing and get exposed to realize, OK man I've got to play within the system. I think that provided us an opportunity as coaches to really challenge him and he's responded."
Elliott continued his praise of Etienne by saying that he is one of the best people he has ever had the opportunity to coach.
But even though he is arguably the best running back to ever play at Clemson and one of the most talented back to ever wear the Tiger uniform, he still has a lot to learn because he is still green around the edges.
"Travis is one of the best young persons to ever come through out program, but he's still a young person," Elliott said. "I think all of us have been in situations where sometimes we have to learn by touching the stove, and I think that's what happened at North Carolina. He's had so much success and he thought he was going to be able to go out there and kind of do what he needed to do to get the job done, but you've got to have a certain intensity and focus, and he got exposed in pass protection and he took that to heart.
"Now coach Swinney was hard on him that week. For me as his coach, he's such a mature young man that I don't have to scream at him. I can talk to him and tell him these are the things you need to do. I think it's a renewed sense of urgency with him."