NFL scouts have salivated over Jadeveon Clowney’s natural abilities and professional potential since the 6-foot-5, 275-pound beast of a football player starred at South Pointe High in Rock Hill, S.C., as a prep senior in 2010.
The guy with the wide smile who has shrugged off critics since ‘The Hit‘ elevated expectations to unrealistic levels for college football’s most-talked about defensive end now faces an obstacle he’s been trying to overcome since the start of his junior season — shaking the lazy moniker.
Steve Spurrier didn’t do Clowney any favors Wednesday in reference to his work ethic, the one element of his game under constant scrutiny. The HBC acknowledged No. 7’s willingness to improve didn’t compare to South Carolina’s most recent draft picks and less than 72 hours before this weekend’s Combine, spoke his mind about the Gamecocks’ top player.
RELATED: Spurrier at fault in Clowney saga
“He was OK,” Spurrier said during an appearance on NFL Network. “It wasn’t like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His works are pretty good, they’re not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he’s got something no one else has.”
That ‘something’ is Clowney’s need for speed off the edge, the best pass rusher coming out of college in the last decade. His blend of Mario Williams’ strength and Aldon Smith’s athleticism has some GMs thinking Clowney could be the cornerstone of a defense for a struggling franchise.
Spurrier did come to his playmaker’s defense after a sub-par — by Clowney standards — three-sack season.
“Even though his production this year wasn’t near what it was last year, he had two to three guys waiting on him just about every play. His run defense was very good, though. He chased down a bunch of guys and made tackles. And his sacks, he had to go around two and three guys just about every game,” Spurrier said.
But by the general consensus’ estimation, Clowney’s reached his ceiling since he’s not a workout king and someone who goes out of his way to spend additional time in the film room.
And it’s not even close.
Getting back to Spurrier’s admission — and subsequent comparison to Lattimore — that Clowney isn’t the first one to lift and last one to leave, it should be noted that no Gamecock — or likely current player in the SEC — shares Lattimore’s 24/7, full-steam ahead approach to football. There’s no doubt the 49ers’ second-year pro was one of the HBC’s favorites during his stint in Columbia and it’s unfair to put Clowney on the same wavelength in that regard.
During the last three years following his recruitment and ultimate signing with the Gamecocks, Clowney’s spent most of his time under the direction of defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, so I’d put more stock into Whammy’s opinion of the defensive end’s production and willingness to get better over someone focused on offense and his quarterbacks.
While Spurrier rarely minces words, his statements are often twisted for effect, and this is another instance. He admitted to poorly handling the midseason situation that held national relevance after Clowney was unable to go prior to kick-off before a game against Kentucky.
Was Clowney preparing to shut it down? Did he receive preferential treatment not available to teammates?
We heard it all and from all angles.
Since helping lead South Carolina to its third consecutive bowl win, Clowney’s spent the last several weeks — wait for it — working on his body at the EXOS facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla. in prep for this weekend’s trip to Indianapolis for the Combine. If he comes through with anticipated record-setting numbers, these quotes from Spurrier will once again be swept under the rug prior to May 8.
The only item GMs should be worried about heading into the draft?
Clowney’s foot on the accelerator.
Slow down, JD. The NFL’s not going anywhere.
Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY