With the Lombardi and Bednarik looming, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney took home his first individual honor Tuesday as the Hendricks choice for the nation’s top defensive end.
Clowney, an unblockable sophomore who led the SEC in sacks, is the second Gamecock since George Rogers (Heisman, 1980) to win a national individual award. The unanimous AP All-SEC selection is the first second-year player to earn the prestigious honor (now in its 11th season) and claimed nearly two-thirds of the final round vote — a new record. Other finalists included USC’s Morgan Breslin, Florida State’s Bjoern Warner and Tank Carradine, LSU’s Sam Montgomery and Damontre Moore from Texas A&M.
Montgomery headlines a smashmouth Tiger defense with seven sacks. Moore, a relative unknown before his first SEC season, ranks third nationally with 12.5 sacks and is considered the Western Division’s best pass rusher.
Clowney’s 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss in 11 games is a school record as was his 4.5-sack game at Clemson. Clowney, with one more season left in Columbia before he turns pro, is 8.5 sacks away from setting a new Gamecock record previously held by Eric Norwood (29). The former top prep player from Rock Hill, S.C. is a projected Top 5 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and could be in Heisman talks at the beginning of next season.
“Our committee has made another outstanding choice for this year’s award,” said Ted Hendricks. “Jadeveon Clowney is an explosive football player who is always in pursuit of the ball. With his extra arm and torso length, as well as outstanding quickness, he is able to shed blockers, fire off the edge and pursue the ball carrier aggressively with purpose. He has a constant motor, a strong work ethic and never seems to tire. He gave opposing blockers nightmares all season. If they blinked, Jadeveon was already past them. I am pleased to add another outstanding student athlete to our Hendricks Award winners.”
Clowney will be the leader of a Gamecock defense next season that replaces three starting linebackers, safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive end Devin Taylor. Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina’s defensive coordinator and most essential assistant coach during Clowney’s recruitment, considers him one of the nation’s elite athletes off the edge.
Up next for Clowney is a Thursday flight to Orlando where the Bednarik award, given to the nation’s top defensive player, will be announced. Finalists include Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. After that, Clowney will get a few days off before bowl practice kicks into high gear as South Carolina (10-2) prepares for Michigan (8-4) in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
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