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Travis Etienne to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2017

Source: Scout.com

Prized running back recruit Travis Etienne has given reigning national champion Clemson his commitment.

Etienne announced his intention to join the Tigers on Thursday in an interview with KPLC (h/t Billy Embody of Scout).

"I'll be taking my talents to the real Death Valley," Etienne said. "Just thinking outside the box. I won't be able to go out there and get into any trouble."

Coming out of Jennings, Louisiana, Etienne is regarded as one of the best running backs in the country. The 4-star prospect is the No. 2 running back from his home state, No. 17 running back in the nation and No. 186 player overall, according to Scout.

The 5'11", 199-pound back boasts a terrific blend of size, speed and power, and his ability in the open field allows him to create his own big-play opportunities.

Here's what Scout had to say about Etienne's game [sic]: "Etienne is a balanced running back. He has ideal size. He can inside between the tackles, he has the speed to get to the perimeter, and he has the ability to break the long run in the open field. He hits the hole quickly with authority and is a strong runner who gets yards after initial contact.

"He can run a little upright at times, so he could be even better with better pad level and being more consistent running behind his pads. His speed and acceleration likely surprises some due to his build and strength."

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The right running back can take an offense to the next level. Florida State's Dalvin Cook and Alabama's Bo Scarbrough are two recent examples, though Etienne has a lot of work ahead if he wants to approach their level of performance.

Etienne's commitment fills a need for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney heading into 2017. Running back Wayne Gallman and quarterback Deshaun Watson were the Tigers' top two rushers last season, combining for 1,762 yards and 26 touchdowns, but both declared for April's NFL draft.

As a result of Gallman's departure, Clemson's top returning running back is C.J. Fuller. The sophomore had just 89 carries in his first two seasons with the program, so there could be an open competition for the starting job in 2017.

With less than one week to go before national signing day, Clemson has work to do. The team's 2017 recruiting class ranks 19th in the nation after landing Etienne, per Scout.

Swinney has not had problems stockpiling talent on both sides of the ball. Etienne's decision to spurn other elite programs, notably LSU, is another indication of the coach's powers on the recruiting trail.

The best running backs in college football have shown the ability to transcend even mediocre talent surrounding them. Etienne doesn't have the same amount of hype as players like Leonard Fournette and Cook, who are two were athletic freaks, but he has the potential to put the offense on his shoulders.

Etienne gives Clemson a foundation piece to build around for the future. He's a budding star who can run, catch passes out of the backfield and block in passing situations, making him a true do-it-all back in college.

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