Clemson got a good idea about what its 2020 team will look like after four big decisions were made this week by some of the Tigers’ top talent.
A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Simmons and Tee Higgins all declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, as expected. But, the shocker comes from junior running back Travis Etienne, who announced he would be returning to Clemson for his final season of eligibility. The news shocked many in the college football world, as Etienne was projected to be one of the top running backs in this years draft.
Terrell, Simmons and Higgins all announced their decisions following the Tigers’ loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The three juniors finish their college football careers with three ACC Championships, three playoff appearances, two bowl wins and one national championship. Simmons was a member of the 2016 national championship team as a redshirt freshman, giving him a second national title to his name.
Terrell leaves Clemson as one of the top corners in the Dabo Swinney era. The junior from Atlanta leaves Clemson with 103 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, six interceptions and two forced fumbles. His interception for a touchdown against Alabama in the 2018 national title game is a memory Clemson fans will remember for a long time. Terrell is projected to go somewhere in the second or third round of the draft.
Higgins was on the verge of coming back for another season, but the junior from Oak Ridge, Tenn., decided to forgo his senior year and enter the draft. Higgins finished tied with Clemson greats Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins for most touchdowns in Clemson history with 27. Higgins is the only receiver in school history to finish with double-digit touchdowns in consecutive seasons. Higgins will most likely be a first round pick, following in the steps of Watkins, Hopkins, Mike Williams and the numerous Clemson receivers to head to the NFL.
Simmons will most likely be Clemson’s highest draft pick this year, with some draft boards having Simmons as a top-five pick. The redshirt junior from Olathe, Kan., was one of the most dominant players in college football this season, winning the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker as well as being Clemson’s sixth unanimous All-American. Simmons finished with 236 career tackles, 28 tackles-for-loss, 10 sacks and four interceptions. Simmons goes down as one of the top defensive players in school history.
Etienne’s decision to return to school shocked the college football world. Etienne was a certain first or second round pick, but with a deep running back class in this years draft, Etienne decided to come back one more year and try to help Clemson win the national title again. Etienne has pretty much captured every major Clemson rushing record, but the junior from Jennings, La., is focused on guaranteeing his first round draft status in 2021. Etienne’s decision to return feels a lot similar to former Clemson great C.J. Spiller, who skipped the NFL to return to Clemson in 2009. Etienne will be a preseason Heisman candidate and will most likely be the top running back next year.
These four Tigers have made huge contributions to the Clemson program, and although it is sad to see three of the four step away, the future looks bright with another season of Etienne, Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross and the rest of the Tiger offense along with what should be another tough Clemson defense in 2020.