South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney entered the 2013 season as a long shot Heisman candidate. Now, three weeks of football in the books, he’s faced questions about his effort, his conditioning, and his injured foot (which will require surgery to repair bone spurs after the season).
Readers of this site know that we believe Clowney has played just fine. It’s the hype that got out of control. All offseason, we were force-fed video of Clowney’s game-changing tackle/forced fumble/fumble recovery versus Michigan in the Outback Bowl. It was an incredible play. It was one of only a few big plays he made that day.
And that’s the rub when it comes to pushing defensive linemen for the Heisman Trophy. Quarterbacks and running backs and receivers make numerous highlight-worthy plays per game. Defensive linemen? And end like Clowney has had a great day if he records a pair of sacks. So when the camera is on him for 60 minutes each Saturday, there are going to be a lot of plays that won’t wow the masses.
In Clowney’s case, though, he’s still wowing the NFL draft analysts like ESPN’s Todd McShay. The man brought in to mix it up with Mel Kiper believes Clowney will still be the top player chosen in next year’s draft, so long as the team picking first isn’t desperate for a quarterback:
“Clowney’s at a different level than everybody else physically and he’s playing a little bit harder than people are giving him credit for.”
Through three games, Clowney has recorded two sacks for 16 yards. Only two SEC players — Kentucky’s Za’Darius Smith and Arkansas’ Chris Smith — have more. Clowney has three tackles for loss to his credit so far, plus one forced fumble.
Considering the fact that every team the Gamecocks face tries to go in whichever direction he is not, Clowney’s “disappointing” start to the season has been greatly overblown.