2. RB Travis Etienne, Jr. Clemson
If it’s possible to have a quiet 1,658-yard, 24 touchdown season, Etienne pulled it off.
The rise of Trevor Lawrence was amazing, and the historically great defensive front four was the star, but Etienne was the one who made it all go.
How do you help a true freshman quarterback? Have a back who can catch, and can average more than eight yards per carry.
How do you survive a well-publicized quarterback change, and the get down to a third-stringer after an injury strikes? Have a back who can run 27 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns like Etienne did against Syracuse.
The slippery-quick force ran for two touchdowns or more in eight games and hit the 100-yard mark eight times in the last 13 games.
Lawrence is the favorite from the Tigers in the Heisman chase, but watch out for Etienne to flirt with 2,000 yards and start to get more recognition. The high-profile games are there early on against Texas A&M and on the road against Syracuse, and the rest of the slate isn’t all that bad.
What other running back will put up massive numbers, but will likely come up short because he’s a running back?
Alternative … RB Jonathan Taylor, Jr. Wisconsin
He might be one of the odds-on favorites as he stays on the path to potentially be the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher – if he stays for another year, but the offensive line is replacing four starters, 2) there might be a true freshman at quarterback, and 3) Taylor fumbles way too much in the red zone. If none of those three things are an issue, he’ll be in New York in early December.