Published August 17, 2012 - 11:20am
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Freak. Jaw dropping. Crazy athleticism.
All have been used to describe what any SEC football fan thinks of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. His God-given athleticism impressed NFL scouts even in high school.
At 6-6, 265 pounds, there isn’t a lot to dislike about the freak athlete from Rock Hill, South Carolina. He is the total package for a defensive lineman.
He was the most hyped recruit in 2011, and he’s the best prospect at the position in a number of years out of high school. Ask any recruiting analyst how current No. 1 prospect and defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche compares to Clowney. Most would say he’s close but just not as explosive as Clowney.
Explosive is another good adjective.
Clowney’s rookie stats were indeed explosive. He arrived on the scene with 12 tackles-for-loss, eight sacks and five forced fumbles. Mind you, he wasn’t a starter, and senior Melvin Ingram overshadowed his contribution with his crazy senior year.
The scary thing about Clowney version 1.0 is that he didn’t even grasp the defense. He was playing tentatively and playing not to make a mistake, rather than knowing the defense and playing fast. He’s starting to combine his athleticism with fundamentals and technique.
Steve Spurrier and his staff are set to cut Clowney loose in 2012, as Spurrier expressed at Media Days that they restrained him at times last year.
“I think we held Jadeveon Clowney back a little last year”, Spurrier said.
Spurrier has said he wants to put Clowney in the best situation to rush the quarterback as possible. He played exclusively at rush end in 2011, but the coaching staff toyed with moving Clowney inside during the spring. And the latest evolution is that Clowney will see some time at middle linebacker, too.
“We’re going to move him all over the place,” Spurrier said. “I think our opponents know that. We’ve got to put him where, hopefully, most of the time he’s one-on-one with somebody. We did that somewhat with Melvin. Maybe could have done it even a little bit more with Melvin inside because he’s very quick, like Jadeveon, certainly.
“Yeah, we’re going to teach him some middle linebacker. There’s all kinds of things you can do, as long as you’ve got 11 of them out there. It’s a pass rush game almost now, as everybody knows.”
Okay, so, maybe it won’t be a true middle linebacker, but it will indeed be a variation of the position in different formations.
Ingram, too, lined up inside at tackle, as well as end, on certain passing situations last year and wreaked havoc. He gave interior offensive linemen fits with his agility and quickness. Clowney should be even better when he plays inside.
But not many defensive ends buy into moving on the interior of the line. Defensive ends are in charge of containment of the quarterback. At tackle, Clowney is free to bull rush the quarterback with little to no discipline. Clowney began to buy into the position during spring.
He’s drawn comparisons to several NFL defensive ends such as Jason Pierre-Paul, Julius Peppers and Mario Williams.
Clowney’s biggest asset this year, aside from his own ability, is that fact that he is lining up opposite fellow defensive end Devin Taylor. Taylor and Clowney combined will terrorize SEC offensive lines and quarterbacks, and they very well could prove to be the best defensive end combo in the country. That label currently belongs to LSU ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. But look for Clowney to grow into being the most dominant defensive end in the SEC this year.
Jadeveon Clowney 2.0 is coming to a stadium near you.