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 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.
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