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Clemson Football 2017 Participation: Running Backs

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NCAA Football: Clemson at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: Games started and games played are not always the best metrics to define experience. Sometimes players get 5 snaps in a game while others get 40. Because of this we review the snap counts of each player at the end of the season to see who has really gained experienced and how much experience Clemson will really be losing.

Coming into the 2017 season, running back promised to be a position of.... interest. We pretty much knew what Clemson would get from CJ Fuller and Adam Choice, a solid yet unspectacular group of backs who could pass protect, but they weren’t exactly a threat to challenge the defense. But from Tavien Feaster there was a lot of untapped potential. Everyone was wondering just how much he’d step up in year 2. And of course Travis Etienne was here, but even those highest on him thought there would be a bit of a learning curve. And then Clemson traveled to Louisville, official home of Rumbalaya.

RB Snap Count

Player Position Year Kent State Auburn Louisville Boston College Virginia Tech Wake Forest Syracuse Georgia Tech NC State Florida State Citadel South Carolina Miami Total
Player Position Year Kent State Auburn Louisville Boston College Virginia Tech Wake Forest Syracuse Georgia Tech NC State Florida State Citadel South Carolina Miami Total
Adam Choice RB RS Junior 12 21 9 12 0 15 10 21 0 20 10 11 12 153
Travis Etienne RB Freshman 15 0 7 13 11 28 14 19 35 27 14 21 18 222
Tavien Feaster RB Sophomore 11 25 34 41 42 32 29 17 22 26 13 32 24 348
C.J. Fuller RB RS Junior 24 21 30 18 11 12 4 21 18 9 19 14 21 222
Ryan Mac Lain RB RS Sophomore 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3
Darien Rencher RB RS Freshman 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 6 0 20
Ty Thomason RB RS Sophomore 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 10

I mention the Louisville game because that was the turning point for Clemson’s RB group. Through Louisville, CJ Fuller was the main RB. He got the majority of snaps with help from the other 3. After the Louisville game, the coaching staff made a definitive turn towards Tavien Feaster as the starter and began giving Etienne more snaps. A few games later Etienne emerged as the #2 back.

The big difference this year compared to previous years at RB is just how spread out the carries are. The obvious reason for this is that as good as Feaster and Etienne are, they aren’t like Wayne Gallman who can be that every down back. It is also fair to say that Gallman didn’t have a backup that the staff trusted in critical situations. Feaster - in part due to a lingering shoulder injury - didn’t have the trust of the coaching staff when he was a freshman backup in 2016. Conversely, in 2017 it seems like the staff was willing to put Etienne in at critical points of the game.

Going into 2018 expect to see both Etienne and Feaster getting more snaps. The departure of CJ Fuller leaves Adam Choice as the only other back with real experience and the coaching staff doesn’t seem to play Choice much beyond mop up duty. Lyn-J Dixon will likely get some snaps, but depending on how he progresses he may not get much beyond 100 snaps. Unless he is this years version of Etienne. Which I’m perfectly ok with.