The Clemson Tigers are off to another great season in 2017. The defending National Champions seem poised to contend for college football’s greatest prize for a third consecutive season. Thus far, the Tigers have relied heavily on a few relative newcomers to the team on both sides of the ball. The results have been exciting to say the least.
Offense: Kelly Bryant
On the offensive side on the ball, the story of the newcomers to the starting lineup begins with Kelly Bryant. While the junior is not a new arrival in Death Valley, he is a first-year starter. And it has been quite a first year indeed. Bryant has been exhibited poise in the passing game atypical of the position so early in one’s career. His leadership and decision-making is a big part of Clemson’s undefeated start to 2017.
What makes Bryant special is his rushing ability. As good as he has been in the passing game, he has been just as good, if not better, for Clemson’s ground game. He’s racked up seven touchdowns in the team’s first four games, carrying the ball more than any other Tiger, and accumulating the team’s second most rushing yards.
Offense: Travis Etienne
Another major contributor to Clemson’s potent rushing offense is true freshman running back Travis Etienne. The nifty neophyte began the season as the fourth running back on Clemson’s depth chart. With CJ Fuller, Tavien Feaster, and Adam Choice ahead of him on the depth chart, Etienne had to make the most of any and every opportunity he received. Through the first four games of his collegiate career, Etienne has gained 292 rushing yards, good enough for first on the team, and four touchdowns on 23 carries. That’s an average of 12.7 yards per carry and a score on every sixth carry. That is exactly how one maximizes their opportunities. While those numbers will almost certainly deflate should he be given a larger role in the offense, Etienne has exhibited an exciting combination of strength, speed, and balance worthy of more involvement.
On the other side of the football, Clemson has had some key contributions from new players in the secondary. While the defense does not feature as many newcomers as the offense does, their contributions have been important to the success of Clemson’s defense. Defensive backs AJ Terrell, K’Von Wallace, Trayvon Mullen, and Isaiah Simmons have all stepped up in their first significant playing time for the Tigers. For a secondary that some considered a potential weakness heading in to the season, the play of Clemson’s quality depth players has helped to quell some of those worries.
There were some doubts heading in to this season regarding whether or not the Clemson Tigers could maintain their previous success after the departure of some key pieces from last year’s team. These exciting newcomers have stepped up in a major way, and Clemson has the look of a perennial contender for years to come.
The Tigers next challenge comes on the road against an undefeated Virginia Tech squad. Look for these newcomers to make an impact in one of the biggest ACC games of the season.