As the season goes on, it is becoming more and more likely that Clemson will have two players, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, as finalists for the highest honor in college football, the Heisman Trophy. This comes as no surprise. Even before anyone played a down this season, Lawrence and Etienne were in the Heisman conversation.
After the loss to LSU in the 2020 National Championship, no one really expected to see Etienne put on his Clemson jersey again. He had already accomplished so much and an NFL team would have surely picked him up at some point in the Draft. But, Etienne pulled a Christian Wilkins last spring with his decision to stay in Tiger Town for another year instead of declaring for the NFL Draft. Etienne entered this season saying he was, “just trying to leave a legacy and just trying to be remembered forever” and “I felt like coming back here would give me that chance just to be one of the all time greats here and in college football.”
With only three more games left in the regular season, Etienne has definitely built upon his already impressive legacy. So far this season, Etienne has scored ten touchdowns and ran for 634 total yards this season, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. In addition, he has already broken the ACC career rushing record that has stood since 1978; he broke Clemson’s record for most receiving yards by a running back with 140 yards in the Boston College game; he became Clemson’s all time career scoring leader, and he became the only player in college football history to have 39 games with a rushing or receiving touchdown.
Etienne’s ability to perfect his craft and become a more versatile player has really allowed him to become Mr. Reliable for Clemson’s offense. His strength, speed, agility and sheer determination allows him to evade defenders, gain extra yardage and get open downfield and make catches about as well as any wide receiver could.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney told the media, “there’s nothing he can’t do. He can return it, he can throw it to him, he can run routes and understand protections. He’s technically sound and the game is just slowed down for him, but he still has that relentless mindset to get every yard he can possibly get. It’s just a blessing to be able to watch him. He’s as good as I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some great, great backs.”
In the absence of Lawrence, who was out with COVID-19, Etienne stepped up and led his team to a victory against Boston College. Because of his impressive game against the Eagles, the ABC announcing crew selected Etienne as the MVP and Leather Helmet Award winner. But being the humble leader that Etienne is, he passed on that honor to freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
Although we have not seen Lawrence play for two weeks due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, he is most definitely still in the conversation as the potential Heisman winner this year. Even with missing two games of the season, Lawrence will still probably finish with some of the best stats in the nation. Already, Lawrence has thrown for 1,833 yards, rushed for 71 yards, thrown 17 touchdown passes and ran for four touchdowns. He has completed 70.2% of his passes and earned himself an 86.2 quarterback ranking. That being said, missing two games meant missing two opportunities to build his resume and further prove why he should win the Heisman. It is unclear how much those who vote on the Heisman will factor Lawrence’s COVID-19 diagnosis in and how much of an impact that will have on his chances to win the Heisman.
It was apparent how important Lawrence is to Clemson’s success in their game against Boston College. Backup quarterback Uiagalelei played well in his place, but the team seemed a little thrown off at first without Lawrence there. The Tigers managed to come out on top but they certainly were not used to playing in such a close game. Most of the time, Lawrence would lead Clemson’s offense to scoring enough points that the Tigers would build a comfortable lead that Swinney felt comfortable putting his second and third string players in the game by the fourth quarter. At the end of the first half against Georgia Tech, Clemson was up 52-7, allowing Lawrence to watch the game from the sidelines for most of the second half. Just imagine what Lawrence’s stats would look like if he had played every snap during these games.
Before his COVID-19 diagnosis, Lawrence was trending on Twitter practically every Sunday with fans saying how they really wanted him to play for their NFL team next year. It is very unlikely that his COVID-19 diagnosis or a Heisman trophy or lack of the trophy will change NFL scouts’ opinion of him and the fact that he will most likely be the No.1 overall pick in this year's Draft. Coach Swinney told the media “there’s nothing that you could desire in a quarterback that’s not there” when talking about Lawrence.
Although it is not necessarily a common occurrence for two players from the same team to be finalists for the Heisman, it has happened on a number of occasions and it will happen again come December as both Lawrence and Etienne are likely to be considered. When asked who he would vote for, Swinney told the media “I don’t know...I know this: there’s not two better players in the country than T-squared: Travis and Trevor.”
Etienne and Lawrence are in a way competing with each other for the Heisman. However, Etienne and Lawrence are not really focused on that, as both players are laser focused on getting team wins rather than individual stats. Although winning the Heisman is a great honor, Etienne and Lawrence would much rather win another National Championship. No matter who wins the Heisman, whether it be Etienne, Lawrence or someone else, Etienne and Lawrence both have bright futures in the NFL ahead of them