This man scored 78 college touchdowns. Why shouldn't he be the next Dolphins' RB?

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
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Clemson's Travis Etienne gets loose for a touchdown against Georgia Tech.

The co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach of the Miami Dolphins, Eric Studesville, was putting Travis Etienne through drills at Clemson's Pro Day and we can assure you it was no coincidence.

"He was very helpful, really coached me up and helped me get better," Etienne said, adding, of course, that he would love to be coached by Studesville in the NFL.

The Dolphins need a running back and everyone knows it. The Dolphins need a starting running back and everyone knows it.

Of course, a year ago, we were saying the same thing, and college running backs like J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State were saying it too. But Dobbins went to the Ravens and top college back after top college back went elsewhere.

The Dolphins must absolutely come away from the upcoming NFL Draft with one of the top three backs available. In some order, and this is a matter of personal taste, of course, it's Najee Harris of Alabama, Etienne and Javonte Williams of North Carolina.

Miami must strongly consider Harris or Etienne with the 18th pick. Or be prepared to move up slightly from the 36th overall pick, which is held near the top of round two.

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Clemson running back Travis Etienne tries to evade Miami safety Bubba Bolden during the first quarter of their ACC game last October.

Of those top backs, Etienne is perhaps the most exciting. He is probably the fastest. And some feel he is, in fact, the best on the board.

"I'm one of the best skill guys in the draft," Etienne said. "I'm able to do it all. I feel like I can take teams to the next tier. I possess a lot of things that are God-given that a lot of guys don't possess."

Speed. Speed. Speed.

Etienne covers 40 yards in 4.41 seconds, which is especially elite. And some feel Etienne would have timed even faster if he had been tested at his playing weight, perhaps 200 pounds instead of 215.

"I wanted to get my body right, but get it right the right way," Etienne said of muscling up, adding that he's trained in South Florida, six days a week, beginning in January.

Etienne (pronounced simply E-T-N), became Clemson's all-time leading rusher in three seasons, helping lead his team to two college football national championship games. He surprisingly returned for a senior season.

Etienne is a explosive, dynamic, game-changing, big-play threat.

But — and this is important to Studesville and Dolphins coach Brian Flores — Etienne is not afraid of contact.

"Leg drive and balance to power and bounce through contact,"'s Lance Zierlein writes. "YAC (yards after carry) daddy whose default running style is set to rampage."

The Dolphins need a lead back who can complement shifty Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Etienne is a capable blocker and receiver who can play all downs.

"A true game-changer at running back," ESPN's Todd McShay said. "He's exactly that, scoring 78 touchdowns from scrimmage over his time at Clemson.

Let that sink in. The man was in the end zone 78 times in a college uniform.

Etienne has been compared to former 'Cane and Dolphin Lamar Miller and former 49er and Cardinal Garrison Hearst, who once starred at Georgia.

Etienne enjoys recent comparisons to Alvin Kamara (Saints/Tennessee) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings/Florida State).

"Most definitely," Etienne said. "I feel like both of those guys are very dynamic guys. They're able to change the game, running the ball and catching the ball. Yes, I feel like it's fair to compare me to those guys."

The Dolphins could roll the dice and hope that Etienne or Javonte Williams are available to them at 36. But after missing out on top running back prospects last year, that seems risky. If Najee Harris is not the pick at 18, a slight move back or a move up from the second round could be in the best interests of general manager Chris Grier.

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Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network has Etienne as the 20th-best player in this draft. Jeremiah believes Etienne is the best running back available, ranking Etienne one spot ahead of Harris and six spots ahead of Williams.

"Etienne is a compact, muscled-up running back with outstanding burst and balance," Jeremiah said. "He's at his best as a one-cut runner, putting his foot in the ground and exploding up the field. He isn't overly elusive in the hole, but he hits it at full speed and absorbs contact while keeping his balance. He has plenty of speed to capture the edge on outside runs. He rarely loses a foot race once he gets into the open field."

NFL Draft

April 29-May 1

Cleveland; ESPN, NFL Network

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