Travis Etienne, Running Back
This kid is a stud. There is no other way to put it. There is a reason that he was named the ACC Player of the Year. Etienne has 1,464 yards on 176 carries this season and has reached the end zone 21 times on the ground. With an average of 8.3 yards per carry, he helps to take the pressure off his freshman quarterback to make all the throws.
Etienne’s ability to pick up yards so efficiently creates the opportunity for Lawrence to take a deep shot in early down situations knowing that the Tigers would be left with a short third down if the pass proves to be incomplete. And while he is important in terms of taking some of the pressure off Lawrence, Etienne is explosive enough to score by himself at any moment. He had touchdown runs of 59 yards and 70 yards against Wake Forest as well as a season high 75 yard touchdown run against Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship game.
Etienne is perhaps most integral for a Clemson team that likes to utilize the run-pass option rather often. Wake Forest is the only team that utilizes RPO’s more than Clemson, and Etienne leads the country in yards off RPO’s with 835. The Notre Dame defense must find a way to limit Etienne’s explosiveness, something Clemson’s opponents struggled to do throughout the course of the regular season.
Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver
With all the fanfare that surrounds Lawrence, Etienne, and the Clemson defensive front (more on this later), it is easy to overlook the talented Clemson receiving corps that is led by Tee Higgins. Higgins has 52 receptions on the year for 802 yards. He averages 15.4 yards per reception and has notched 10 touchdowns. Statistically, he is Lawrence’s favorite target and for good reason. Listed at 6-4, he has caused nightmares for opposing secondaries, using his big frame to get up and make big plays. While Higgins might be the biggest threat downfield, Notre Dame cannot sleep on the rest of the Clemson receivers who are talented in their own right and give the Tigers depth at the wide receiver position.