When discussing the top 10 players in the country, it's easy to speak only in
superlatives. Every player at every level has something to work on, something to
improve, but out of one million high school football players, to be considered
among the 10 best prospects in the country takes a special kind of athlete.
Jadeveon Clowney (6'5/245) of Rock Hill, S.C. is a special kind of athlete.
Clowney has outstanding size, and his quickness rivals a linebacker's. His burst
off the ball is almost impossible for an offensive tackle to match in a drop
step trying to protect against a speed rush. While he's tall and lean, he still
plays with the strength and leverage to overpower offensive linemen who are
considerably heavier than him at this level.
What Clowney must improve on is the use of his hands. At the Under Armour
All-America game, Clowney ran into an offensive tackle for the first time who
could anticipate his quickness in Alabama signee and Scout's No. 2 overall
prospect Cyrus Kouandjio. When Kouandjio was able to get his hands on Clowney,
he had trouble disengaging from the mammoth 6'6 and 320 pound offensive tackle.
To that point in his career Clowney had yet to run into a player on the field
who could compete with him athletically.
That's why coaches get paid a lot of money to do things other than recruit,
although this time of year that can be forgotten. Clowney's superlatives range
from size, speed, strength, and determination. While his drawback may simply be
technique. The latter is considerably easier to improve.
One of the easiest ways to describe the type of athlete that Clowney is, is to
compare him to two quarterbacks, yes quarterbacks. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor
(6'6/235) and Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton (6'6/250) of Auburn are built
in the same mold as Clowney. Clowney's resemblence to Pryor is uncanny when he's
in full uniform wearing the same number and the same scarlet and gray.
Clowney or Pryor?
Clowney will dedicate himself to becoming bigger and stronger in the weight
room unlike the two quarterbacks and he should finish his career in the
neighborhood of 280 pounds and follow a similar path of comparable defensive
linemen to the NFL in the 2014 draft.
What can reasonably be expected of Clowney early in his career? To answer that
question, I look back at the two players I've scouted in the last 10 years that
Clowney most resembles, NC State's Mario Williams (6'6/255) '03 and Clemson's
Da'Quan Bowers (6'5/265) '08.
Bowers led Clemson defensive linemen in tackles as a freshman with 47
and led the team in quarterback hurries (15). He battled injuries as a sophomore
before playing 100% as a junior when he finished 2nd for the Lombardi Trophy
awarded to the nation's best lineman, and helped Clemson lead the ACC in
scoring defense. He's projected as a Top 5 pick in this April's NFL Draft.
As a freshman Williams led NC State defensive linemen in tackles with 56 tackles
while posting 13
tackles for loss. He had a breakout junior season posting a whopping 14 sacks before declaring for
the NFL Draft and being a surprise, and now well justified, No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans.
If I were to rank the players as seniors, I'd rank them Clowney, Williams, and
then Bowers. Coming in to high school is about potential, Williams and Bowers
are already proven commodities, and Clowney should be so fortunate to follow
their career paths. But at the same point of their careers to this point, I like
Clowney the best.
Which is still to say that no one should expect Clowney to be an instant
All-American from his first game on the field. A true freshman, no matter how
athletic and highly touted, is still a true freshman at times going against 22
and 23 year old grown men who have been in a collegiate strength and
conditioning program for years. Clowney's talent alone will dictate some
spectacular plays, but early in his career until he makes up the inevitable
strength and size disadvantage, he will likely be more of a situational player
coming in to generate an instant pass rush.
Williams and Bowers both led their teams in tackles for defensive linemen as
freshmen, but neither began their careers as the players they ended up as
juniors. Clowney is über-talented, and his learning curve will be faster than
most, but there's still a curve. Should he stay healthy, expect some Freshman
All-American honors, some All-SEC discussion as a sophomore, and a finalist for
every major defensive award in the country as a junior before being a Top 5
draft in the NFL in 2014.
Get inside coverage of your favorite team. Click here now to get started.