Coming into last season, Clemson was expected to replace Wayne Gallman using a combination of C.J. Fuller, Adam Choice, Tavien Feaster, and maybe a bit of contribution from the youngest backups. And for the most part, they did just that, but the unexpected emergence of Travis Etienne brings new excitement to the running back battle. Etienne and Feaster both got 107 carries last year, and look to be the primary 1-2 punch for the Tigers next season, but this offseason will probably decide which one is the 1 in that punch. CJ Fuller, the starter coming into last season, is gone now, transferring elsewhere in hopes of being the starter for a full year somewhere new.
If you look purely at stats (766 yards, 7.2 YPC, and 13 TDs), Etienne is the superior back to Choice and Feaster, but that’s thanks to his breakaway ability and superhuman ability to find the end-zone.
Feaster is just as, if not more, talented than Etienne, but Feaster shines more through consistent medium-yardage gains with the occasional breakaway. Look for both backs to be focused on their blocking abilities and decision making all spring, if they can become consistent blockers, they’ll both be locks to play on Sundays.
In 2006-2008 Clemson featured a “Thunder and Lightning” duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Davis would run it up the gut seemingly every down, unable to get tired, then every once and a while you would see a flash of lightning as Spiller torched everyone on the field en route to the end-zone. Etienne and Feaster look like they will be the next formidable Clemson RB duo, and would definitely need a duo nickname. Lightning and Lightning? The Afterburners? The Feast of Saint Stephen? T n T? Fat Tuesday Feast? Give me your ideas in comments, because mine aren’t that great.
Joining the RB corps is Lyn-J Dixon from Butler, GA. A four-star recruit in the 247Sports composite ranking, Lyn-J is an all-purpose back that will likely see limited action throughout the year. He may be another freshman sensation, we never really know until he sees the field, but expect him to spend the year learning from those in front of him on the depth chart.
All in all, I would expect to see Feaster named the starter coming out of spring ball if one is named at all. He started every game after the ground game explosion versus Louisville and thanks to his stature he is more suited than Etienne to be the primary back. Don’t be surprised if Feaster and Etienne once again get similar carry totals, though, Feaster may be the starter, but Etienne is the closer.