Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After losing top wide receiver Tee Higgins, Clemson can continue to build around its Trevor LawrenceTravis Etienne backfield. A junior running back, Etienne made the unexpected decision to stay in school, announcing the decision Friday (Twitter link).

Running backs typically declare early to avoid another year’s worth of college carries, but Clemson’s starter will take a different route to the NFL. Etienne has stacked multiple 1,600-yard rushing seasons together and could well end up as a 2021 first-round pick like Lawrence.

Etienne finished as a top-10 Heisman vote-getter in each of the past two seasons, which featured a combined 49 touchdowns and 3,782 scrimmage yards. Scouts Inc. slotted Etienne as a second-round talent this year, ranking the production dynamo as this class’ would-be No. 5 running back.

Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Florida State’s Cam Akers and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins rate as other top backs in this class. All had years of eligibility remaining, but each entered the draft early. But Lawrence’s Clemson running mate will instead focus on helping the Tigers to another national championship game, after having started in the past two, and becoming a 2021 first-rounder.

This article first appeared on Pro Football Rumors and was syndicated with permission.


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