Run•ning back: an offensive player, typically a halfback, who specializes in carrying the ball.Clemson has a long lineage of great running backs in the backfield, and we still may be seeing the greatest Clemson running back of all-time for one more year on the field inside Death Valley in Travis Etienne.
Today at Clemson Sports News we will be taking a look in the Tiger running back room for the 2020 season. Who is the starter? Who will be seeing increased playing time? And who are the new faces in the room? Continue reading to find out.
Starter: It should come to no suprise who will head out with the offense on September 3rd for the first drive of the season. #9 came back for his senior season, looking to become the first ever Clemson Tiger to take home the Heisman Trophy. The duo of Etienne and Trevor Lawrence should once again be proven to be a deadly combo. Do you stack the box and try to stop the ACC rushing touchdown record holder? That leaves your secondary out to dry, and we all know TL16 will fit the ball into his receivers hands no matter what coverage there is.
Etienne enters the 2020 season recording 4,105 rushing yards on only 518 attempts. The Lousianna native 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) (ClemsonTigers.com).
Etienne has taken home the ACC Player of the Year award in back-to-back years (2018-2019), and is virtually a lock to take home the award once again this year.
Second String: Following a very solid 2019 season, Lyn-J Dixon has the second string job all but locked up. The Butler, Georgia native rushed for 635 yards and six touchdowns in the back-up role last season behind Etienne. Dixon enters his junior season sitting second on the Clemson history in yards per carry (7.12) behind who? You guessed it, Travis Etienne.
Expect Dixon to receive bountiful playing time behind Etienne in 2020. Dixon will be a leader of the second string as a junior.
Third String: The third string running back job will be a battle between two guys in my opinion, between Chez Mellusi and Darien Rencher. Rencher, a redshirt senior from Anderson, S.C. scored his first touchdown of his career on an eight yard rush against Louisville. Rencher is a good friend of Lawrence and is a PAW ambassador.
Mellusi enters the 2020 season with three touchdowns under his belt as a freshman last season. The Florida native was the seventh-best running back out of the class of 2018 and a unanimous four-star prospect. Mellusi scored his first collegiate touchdown in the Carrier Dome, bursting through the middle of the line in the fourth quarter and taking it 57-yards to the house.
Michel Dukes will also be competing for playing time. The South Carolina native rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns in 2019.
The new kids in town: Clemson signed two running backs in the class of 2020. Demarkcus Bowman became the 12th best recruit (247sports) in Clemson history when he signed his letter of intent in December of 2019. Bowman, a five-star prospect from Florida, was the third best running back in his class and was the #20 overall prospect.
The Tigers also signed a three-star prospect out of Georgia in Kobe Pace. The 5-11 215 pounds running back also played both ways in high school, recording 4.5 sacks as a middle linebacker. Could we see Pace switch sides of the ball with the running back room so packed with talent? Especially with the addition of Will Shipley in the class of 2021.
The running back group may be Clemson’s most reliable player group. They bring not only leadership, but consistency to Dabo Swinney’s offense.