It won’t be a surprise when Jadeveon Clowney makes himself eligible for the NFL draft. The junior defensive end came into the season as a potential #1 pick with some suggesting he could even consider sitting out the year to avoid injury.
Instead, Clowney played. And because expectations were set at ridiculously high levels, he’s been viewed by many as a bit of a disappointment this season. Here’s the problem: Clowney was expected to make 10 big plays a game while playing a position where one sack per game is considered fantastic. There was no way he could make enough highlight reel plays to live up to preseason Heisman talk. And once the season began, opposing coaches schemed around him. ”We may lose, but we won’t let Clowney beat us.”
“I think he’s done a great job. You don’t see many players that have been double-teamed and triple-teamed and run away from as much as he has this year, and I think he’s done a great job with it. I think he’s handled himself well. I think some of the things throughout the year were blown out of proportion with the way it happened. He’s been great for us here, and we’re happy to have had him here at South Carolina.”
What was blown out of proportion was Clowney’s decision to sit out the Kentucky game due to injury. Head coach Steve Spurrier made it a story by hinting that Clowney didn’t play simply because he didn’t want to… only to later admit that the player’s injury was worse than he had known.
For the year, Clowney recorded 35 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. In 2012 he made 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five QB hurries and three forced fumbles. That’s quite a statistical decline when it comes to big plays.
But to see the true impact of Clowney on USC’s defense, just check out the numbers for Kelcy Quarles. While Clowney was drawing double-teams, Quarles was good enough to take advantage. In 2012 he recorded 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and one quarterback hurry. This season he notched 36 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and three quarterback hurries.
While #7 wasn’t the dominating player in 2013 that he had been in 2012, opponents’ focus on him created opportunities for his teammates on a unit that ranked third in the SEC in total defense and second in scoring defense. For that reason, it would be shocking of Clowney weren’t one of the top three picks in the upcoming NFL draft.