South Carolina coaches focused on pushing Clowney, linebackers this spring

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Jadeveon Clowney might not have had the offseason that Johnny Manziel has had, seeing Manziel has lived it up while Clowney has kept out of the public’s eye. But Clowney is everywhere and being talked about on every media outlet.

Since his hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, Clowney has been the winner of SportsCenter’s “Best Of” countless times, and along with it, a mounting Heisman campaign. ESPN held several debates whether or not Clowney should even play in 2013, because he’s the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft assuming he doesn’t get injured. He’s been described as the defensive Andrew Luck, while playing the position better than anyone since Bruce Smith.

ESPN visited South Carolina in preparation for the start of spring, and Tom Rinaldo, who is known to make viewers tear up with his passionate stories, made viewers cry for a different reason. Clowney reportedly ran a 4.5 40 at 277 pounds. Freakish.

The Gamecocks opened practice yesterday, and new defensive line coach Deke Adams, along with defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, are pushing Clowney. Twenty-one sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss is a career for 90 percent of players who ever suited up in college football, but Clowney’s managed that in just two years of work.

And it’s not good enough for Ward and Adams, because they see he’s only just a fraction of a finished product, via Post and Courier.

“If I can get him to play 100 percent every time, then he might be unstoppable,” Ward said. “If he wants to be the No. 1 player picked in the draft, he’s got to play harder. He understands that. Not that he takes (plays) off. Clowney is a player who knows that if he wants to make a play, it’s obvious he’s shown that he can do that. And I want him to make a play every time, so I want him to give me that effort. I want him to play that way all the time.”

Once Clowney combines learned technique to his overall freakish ability, he’ll be an unstoppable force only slowed by his own desire.

A Focus On Linebackers

South Carolina knew it had voids at linebacker entering spring practice. The Gamecocks lose four of their five top tacklers, along with four proven linebackers of Shaq Wilson, Reginald Brown, Quin Smith and Damario Jeffery. Combined, these four produced 273 total tackles in ‘12.

USC’s depth chart listed Kaiwan Lewis and TJ Holloman as Mike linebackers and Cedrick Cooper, Marcquis Roberts and Kelvin Rainey (former TE) as Sam linebackers. However, only Lewis and Cooper are letter winners and have combined for four tackles.

The good news is that this group is more athletic than the previous corps, but can the athleticism overcompensate for lack of vast experience?

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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