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Travis Etienne skipping draft, will stay at Clemson for 2020

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It’s not often you get a shocking announcement for a player returning for his senior year but this might qualify.

In an announcement posted on Twitter Friday afternoon, Clemson’s star tailback Travis Etienne surprised pretty much everybody by saying he would skip the 2020 NFL Draft and remain on campus for his senior season.

Etienne was a Heisman Trophy candidate for much of 2019 and has been a key cog in the Tigers’ incredible record the past few years. He’s rushed for over 1,600 yards each of the past two seasons and continued to become a threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield as well.

While many expected the junior to turn pro and join a deep class of running backs, apparently the taste left in his mouth by Monday’s national title game was just the extra push he needed to stay on campus to aim for another championship.

Though Dabo Swinney has to deal with a handful of departures from the two-deep this offseason, the return of Etienne should only further cement Clemson as the preseason No. 1 team for 2020. The tailback and quarterback Trevor Lawrence both figure to be high draft picks the following spring but for now they will be aiming for another ring with a team that just won 29 games in a row.

For Chase Brice, USF would make for a familiar landing spot

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When it comes to Chase Brice and his future, it’s time to play connect the post-Clemson dots.

Thursday night, Brice confirmed on Twitter that he will be transferring from the Tigers and continuing his collegiate career elsewhere. Brice has spent the past two seasons as the backup to Trevor Lawrence, who will be entering his third, and presumably last, season as Clemson’s starting quarterback.

As for a potential landing spot, LSU makes sense on some level as the reigning national champions will be looking to replace Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Making even more sense would be USF, if familiarity means anything.

Dec. 9, it was confirmed that Jeff Scott would be the next head coach at USF. Scott, of course, spent the previous 11 seasons with the Tigers before coming to the Bulls. The last five of those seasons, he was the team’s co-offensive coordinator.

Because of that built-in relationship, the speculation is already mounting that USF will be the grad transfer’s landing spot.

Even before he opted to transfer, though, there were rumors connecting the redshirt sophomore to Scott’s new school.

“I hear things too. I’m like, ‘Where did y’all hear that from? I didn’t say it.’ I’m really just focused on this game Saturday and being committed to the team,” Brice said in late December, ahead of the playoff semifinal matchup with Ohio State. “It’s funny because we don’t have social media. We can’t post. It’s just perception and ideas pop in people’s heads.”

Brice was a three-star 2017 signee.

In two seasons on the Tigers’ active roster, Brice went 75-of-124 for 896 yards with nine touchdowns against four interceptions while adding another 179 rushing yards. He memorably saved Clemson’s 2018 national championship run, stepping in for an injured Lawrence in the game immediately following Kelly Bryant‘s midseason departure, leading the Tigers from a 23-13 fourth-quarter deficit to a 27-23 win over Syracuse.

As he will play for his next school as a graduate transfer, Brice will have two seasons of eligibility to use wherever he lands.

Tee Higgins leaving Clemson early for 2020 NFL Draft

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As expected, the Clemson football program is losing a key offensive piece to the next level.

On Twitter Wednesday, Tee Higgins wrote that “it is with a grateful heart that I announce today my intention to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.” It had long been projected that the wide receiver would forgo his remaining season of eligibility.

“The last three years at Clemson have been unbelievable,” Higgins wrote. “1 national championship and 3 College Football Playoff appearances are accomplishments and experiences that can never be taken away.

“But Clemson is so much more than than.  Clemson is different.  It’s hard to explain… there really is something in these hills.  If I had to boil it down to one word I guess it would have to be ‘FAMILY.’

“Clemson is family.”

In three years as part of the Clemson football team, Higgins totaled 2,448 yards and 27 touchdowns on 135 receptions.  The touchdowns are a school record.

This season, he tied a career-high with 59 receptions and set career-highs with 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns.  On his only career carry, he ran for a 36-yard touchdown in the title-game loss to LSU this past Monday night.  That second-quarter score gave the ACC Tigers a temporary 17-7 lead before the SEC Tigers came roaring back to secure a 42-25 win.

It’s expected that Higgins will be the latest in a growing line of Clemson receivers drafted in the first round. Mike Williams (2017), Sammy Watkins (2014) and DeAndre Hopkins (2013) are all former Tigers who became first-round selections.

Joe Burrow says he played with torn rib cartilage in LSU title game win

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The legend of Joe Burrow and his time at LSU only continues to grow.

Monday night, Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers capped off a magical 2019 season with a resounding win over Clemson in the national championship game in their own backyard. The Heisman Trophy winner, after a slow start by his lofty standards, finished strong.  In completing 31-of-49 passes, Burrow threw for 463 yards and five touchdowns.  More impressively, he didn’t toss an interception.

On his final throw of the first half, a touchdown pass to Thaddeus Moss, though, Burrow took a hard shot from a Clemson defender to his midsection. ESPN sideline reporter, Holly Rowe, stated that he was fighting to get his wind back. There were initial fears that he suffered broken ribs.

On Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast, Joe Burrow confirmed that he didn’t break any ribs in the LSU win.  He did, though, acknowledge that he had suffered torn cartilage in his ribs on the hit in question.

“It’s overcoming my violent hangover right now. I’m getting pretty old,” Burrow said on the podcast. “No, I tore some cartilage in my ribs.”

Following the game, Ed Orgeron stated Burrow didn’t sustain a significant injury. “He’s fine,” the head coach added.

Monday night’s win was the last game of Burrow’s collegiate career.  He’s expected by many (most) observers to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Trevor Lawrence enters 2020 offseason as Heisman favorite

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Even as Trevor Lawrence attempts to get the taste of his first-ever college loss out of his month, there’s no time like the present for a little Heisman talk.

On the biggest stage Monday night, Lawrence came up short as Clemson took it on the chin in a 17-point loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff championship game.  While the quarterback didn’t throw an interception, he did complete a career-worst 48.6 percent of his pass attempts.  The true sophomore was also held without a touchdown pass for the first time since a four-point win over Syracuse in September of 2018.

Despite the struggles, Trevor Lawrence hasn’t lost all of the Heisman shine as one offshore sportsbook has him listed as a 7/2 favorite to claim the 2020 stiff-armed trophy.  That’s actually down a bit from the 3/1 Lawrence was at following Joe Burrow winning the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion.

The quarterback of the team Lawrence and Clemson took down in the semifinals, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, is right behind his under-center counterpart at 4/1.  Another quarterback, true freshman Kedon Slovis of USC, is at 9/1.

Five other returning players will start the offseason at 10/1, including Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, who surprised many (most?) observers by announcing Monday he’s coming back for his senior season.  The others at that 10/1 number are all quarterbacks — Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Alabama’s Mac Jones, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler.

The only non-offensive player on the early Heisman wagering agenda?  Standout LSU true freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who is listed at 16/1.

Some perspective, though, on these way-too-early odds: Last year at this time, Lawrence (3/1) and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (4/1) were the heavy favorites to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy.  Lawrence finished seventh in the voting this past December, Tagovailoa 10th.