Tigers want to spread the carries around on Saturday against underdog Georgia Southern

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott also oversees the running backs, and if there’s anything a position coach desires to do more than win, it’s to get his particular guys the ball as much as possible.

That’s tough to do when you only run 59 plays as Clemson did despite winning, 28-26, at Texas A&M where the Aggies stacked the line and were aggressively intent on not allowing the Tigers to establish the run, and more importantly the balance they wanted. It didn’t help the Tigers went 4 of 13 on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth, unable to sustain drives.

Dynamic starting tailback Travis Etienne ran eight times for 44 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 23 yards. With quarterback Kelly Bryant rushing 15 times, the majority coming after halftime when Clemson went ultra-conservative with the lead, that left little meat on the bone for the team’s other capable runners. Adam Choice carried three times and Spartanburg’s Tavien Feaster just twice.

“We only had 55 snaps that were worth a darn,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “It was a combination of how inefficient we were and how poor on third down. But (Etienne) has to touch the ball and Feaster has to touch the ball. It didn’t work out for Feaster the other night. He had a couple of plays where we got blown up and messed up a draw. We’re an 80-85-plus snap team and (those guys) have to touch the ball.”

Swinney continued, "We like to see 35-40 touches with our running backs. We have to get it going and do a better job of making sure those guys touch the ball. We have to get better there.”

Etienne entered the season as the unquestioned starter after last year’s sterling freshman debut and his improvement as a blocker during the offseason. Feaster, who has five carries combined the opening two games, had to bounce back from a minor knee procedure and began the season-opener listed third on the depth chart behind veteran Adam Choice.

Freshman Lyn-J Dixon rushed six times in the opening blowout over Furman and still has one more carry than both Feaster and Choice, a situation Elliott is looking to rectify starting this week against underdog Georgia Southern,

“Feaster has been good, his attitude is positive and he’s actually increased his intensity in practice,” Elliott said. “Again, part of it was he came into camp hampered a little bit so it’s taken him a bit of time to get himself back into feeling good. It was a tough situation and I told them after the game, I’m just like any coach where I want my guys to touch the ball.

“But you’ve got to do what’s best for the offensive unit to be able to win the game and get the job done and because they were taking away the run there weren’t as many touches for those guys and you had to be able to have run-pass options. So there will come a day (for additional run attempts), but we knew going in we were going to have protect the quarterback and if we called for the quarterback to run would have to be physical at the point of attack in blocking and that’s what those guys did.”

Etienne said he doesn’t get frustrated by a lack of carries during a game because he understands there are a lot of talented teammates who want the ball as well and the Tigers are best suited by taking what the defense gives them. Of course when you’re in third-and-long all night as Clemson was at Texas A&M, it makes it impossible for the offense to dictate things with tempo.

“During the game I really don’t get frustrated about that,” Etienne said. “I have my other players on the team making great plays and they may try to take the run away, but if we have everyone working together and doing their job it’s going to come and we can’t just force it.”