Story Poster
Photo by Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY SPORTS
Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Etienne Equally Dangerous as a Receiver

November 4, 2020

When Dabo Swinney announced that Trevor Lawrence was not going to be available for the Notre Dame game, I’m sure many Irish fans rejoiced.

It’s understandable. He’s the projected top pick in the next NFL Draft and was the Heisman frontrunner before contracting Covid-19. He’s lost only one game as a starter and is considered by most to be a generational talent at quarterback.

Not having Lawrence does not spell doom for Clemson, though. They have a 5-star freshman behind him on the depth chart who threw for 340 yards last week. More importantly, they have the best player in college football still playing for them: Travis Etienne.

Yes, Etienne has been that good for Clemson this season. Always dangerous running the football with his ability to break tackles, he’s taken his game to a new level with his contributions as a receiver. What he’s doing right now catching the ball is remarkable.

He has 434 receiving yards, which puts him in the top-40 in the country. No other back cracks that list. He’s averaging a ridiculous 15.0 yards per reception and is coming off a game where he had 140 yards catching the football.

To put that 434 yards into perspective, consider that Reggie Bush had 478 in 13 games (12.9 per reception) during his Heisman trophy season in 2005. Etienne leads the country in total yards from scrimmage and has given Clemson’s passing game a boost after losing their two best receivers from last season.

Clemson gets him the ball in a variety of ways and Notre Dame has to be prepared for all of them.

Don’t give him too much space

Etienne is a beast when he can get some momentum downhill. If he has a runway, there isn’t much that can slow him down.

This is 3rd and 16 against Virginia and the defense doesn’t account for him. Maybe with an average back you can give up a checkdown like this and still force a punt. That’s not going to work against Etienne.


Rather than spying a quarterback, it might be the best option to spy Etienne on a play like this and make sure he’s covered.

Beware of bad matchups

Clemson exploited the matchups with Etienne against Boston College linebackers all day long. They went empty with Etienne out wide on this play. The back might be a decoy for a lot of teams in this alignment, but Etienne is the guy they want to get the ball to here.

He’s matched up against BC’s Mike linebacker and that’s going to be a loss every time.


This can’t be Drew White or Bo Bauer lining up across from Etienne in man if Notre Dame gets this look. It has to be Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or a safety like Kyle Hamilton.

Here we are again with Etienne running a wheel route against a BC inside linebacker. This is just too easy for Clemson and it’s shades of Bush matching up with Brandon Hoyte for Notre Dame fans.


Always be prepared to peel

BC is running a blitz off the edge here and their Will linebacker, Isaiah McDuffie, has a bust with his responsibility. He is the guy lined up showing potential pressure up the middle, but drops off and is too late recognizing Etienne leaking out.


Even if McDuffie did see this right away, I don’t think he would have got there quick enough to make a play because he was out-leveraged badly. This is where the outside blitzer should be peeling off his blitz when he recognizes Etienne is leaking out as a receiver. That’s too tough of a cover for the Will linebacker to get there and Notre Dame can’t ask their Buck backer to do the same.

You may remember a similar play working for Georgia Tech against Notre Dame where JOK didn’t peel off his blitz and Bauer was nowhere closer to the back leaking out. That went for 34-yards. This play went for six points to Etienne.

Clemson will use Etienne in the screen game. We may see him in the slot against Notre Dame. We may see him motion out wide instead of lining up there like on that first play. Clark Lea needs to be prepared for everything.

Etienne is Clemson’s best player with or without Trevor Lawrence on the field. He will require extra attention and Notre Dame has to have a plan to defend him in every possible way on every single snap.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.