Twenty-seven tackles and two sacks.
The numbers for Jadeveon Clowney are scary this season, but not in a good way.
Injuries, fatigue and double-teams aside, college football’s most talked about defensive player has underperformed as a junior at South Carolina after months of preseason buzz transformed the 6-foot-6, 275-pound pass rusher into a Heisman possibility. His lack of production won’t hurt his draft stock as Clowney’s projected as a Top 5 selection by most services, but he still has work to do to leave a lasting legacy in Columbia as a physically-gifted player everyone thought would obliterate Eric Norwood’s career sack record of 29.
The hype’s been too much for Clowney who has struggled throughout his collegiate career with over pursuing ballcarriers and snap-to-snap effort. He showed flashes of the dominant force that made him so popular on highlight reels as sophomore on Oct. 19 in Knoxville, but has since been a non-factor with six solo tackles in the Gamecocks’ last two games.
Clowney’s last sack this season came against Vanderbilt in Week 3, a sack-and-strip that staved off an upset.
Seven sacks from tying the school’s all-time mark, he’ll get an opportunity at drawing closer Saturday night when Florida visits Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gators limp in with four consecutive losses against a program that could set a school record with its 16th straight home victory.
With a depleted unit protecting Tyler Murphy, who may not even play because of an injury, Florida’s given up nine sacks over the last two games. The lack of a running game has forced the Gators out of their comfort zone offensively, and as a result, it has put Will Muschamp’s future in jeopardy.
This could be Clowney’s signature game, and he, along with Kelcy Quarles, should terrorize the Gators. The last four weeks, one defender who played against Florida won weekly defensive awards: Danielle Hunter (LSU) Michael Sam (MIZ), Garrison Smith (UGA), Caleb Azubike (VU).
Florida (4-5) needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible. After Saturday’s game at South Carolina, the Gators host Georgia Southern and unbeaten second-ranked Florida State.
Clowney will play a role in determining that.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports