JENNINGS, La. — LSU’s newest running back target in the 2017 class emerged right from its backyard.
Travis Etienne, a 4-star prospect from Jennings (La.) High School, is about to kick off a pivotal trio of visits to Tennessee (Jan. 13), Texas A&M (Jan. 20) and LSU (Jan. 27) before ultimately making a decision.
Consider the second and the third visits even more significant, however, as Etienne, a one-time Aggies commit, conceded that Texas A&M remains his leading school, but LSU has quickly narrowed the gap.
“I really love College Station, it felt like a home away from home, and they’re my leaders honestly,” Etienne told SEC Country.
“I want to give every school an equal opportunity. Nothing is final, though. (LSU is) close, almost all balanced, as close as you can get.
“Texas A&M is in the lead, but not my much,” he elaborated. “LSU is right there because they’re so close to home. It’s the home school that I grew up wanting to play for. Being from here, everyone dreams of playing for LSU and running in touchdowns in Death Valley. There’s really nothing better than that.”
If not A&M, then LSU?
Here’s what’s critical to understand.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder will make his first-ever visit to Tennessee, then return to Texas A&M. If things check out on that visit, Etienne could wind up re-committing and ending his recruitment then and there.
If Etienne returns to Louisiana uncommitted, he’ll officially visit LSU on Jan. 27. Then, he’ll hold off until National Signing Day to announce his plans, with the odds favoring the Tigers.
“When I commit, I’m ending my whole recruitment,” Etienne said.
When asked if he could commit after his official to Texas A&M: “There’s a chance of that happening, by talking to the players and Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and being back there.”
If not, push the needle closer to LSU: “They would be very positive,” the running back said of LSU’s chances, if he makes his official visit, “if I don’t commit to A&M. I’d just have to talk to the coaches and like what’s going on with the schemes.”
Top 3 … without an offer
LSU running backs coach Jabbar Juluke has long anchored Etienne’s recruitment.
It began back in the spring when Juluke inquired if the 4-star running back had interest in playing safety. Once Les Miles was replaced by Ed Orgeron, Juluke re-engaged Etienne — this time about playing running back — eventually leading to an offer on Dec. 27.
“Coach Juluke has just kept it real with me the whole process,” said Etienne. “He told me everything that was going on. Coach O told me he really likes me. He told me I’m from Louisiana and it’s important that Louisiana players stay here, that I have the potential to be great and play in an offense that fits Coach (Matt) Canada.”
Etienne vaulted LSU into his final three even before he landed the offer.
Well, he knew an offer was coming.
Despite the timing of it, Etienne has had dreams of suiting up for the Tigers, which are now a possibility because of Orgeron’s and Juluke’s interest. And unlike Tennessee and Texas A&M, LSU has an edge because of its proximity to home.
“At first, they didn’t recruit me because I don’t think Coach Les (Miles) liked me, but Coach O came in and he was high on me and really loved me,” Etienne said. “They finally offered me, and because they’re the home-state school, that puts them there. They’re right down the road from where I live, an hour and 30 minutes away, and I definitely don’t want to be too far (from home).”
On Orgeron, Canada
Etienne’s offer rolled in on the afternoon before 5-star target Cam Akers committed to Florida State.
The Jennings (La.) High standout rushed for 2,459 rushing yards from scrimmage and 34 total touchdowns his senior season. That includes 30 rushing scores, two receiving and another two as a returner.
Etienne camped in Baton Rouge in July, then made stops at home games against Ole Miss, Alabama and Florida — all games in which Orgeron coached the team with the interim tag.
“He gets his players pumped up,” he said of Orgeron. “They actually want to play for him and believe in everything he says. If he asked them to run through a wall, they’d be willing to do it.”
Since landing the offer, Etienne also has touched base with Canada, the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator.
Canada had high praise after watching his tape, comparing him his former Wisconsin back Melvin Gordon, an eventual first-round NFL draft pick. Etienne plans to further discuss his role in the LSU offense during his official visit.
“He told me about his coaching scheme and previous players that have went on to be successful,” he said of Canada. “He wants to be able to use my speed off the edge and use my ability to see the holes in the defense.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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