You would be hard pressed to find a more talented and more talked about defensive player in college football than South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. From 4.5 sacks against Clemson to “The Hit”, Clowney has quickly become a household name. Can Clowney do what hasn’t been done since 1997, when Charles Woodson became the first primarily defensive player to win the coveted Heisman trophy? Here’s three reason why you will see Clowney in New York this December:
1. There is no front runner coming into the season
For a defensive player to even be considered for what has primarily been an offensive award, there has to be a combination of incredible stats and no stand out on offense. In the 77 years that the trophy has been presented to the best player in college football, there have only been 17 defensive players that have finished in the top 5 of voting, and only 3 in the past 22 years. But unlike previous years, there is no offensive front runner coming into the 2013 season. 2012 saw Matt Barkley garner all of the preseason attention, while 2011 was the year of Andrew Luck. Although last years winner, Johnny Manziel, will be returning to Texas A&M this year, there is no offensive player that is creating a large amount of buzz coming into the season, leaving the door open for a defensive player such as Clowney.
2. He already has his Heisman moment
From Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass that propelled Boston College past Miami in 1984 to Cam Newton’s 49-yard super human TD run against LSU in 2010, each Heisman winner has had his own “Heisman moment”. And for Clowney, his Heisman moment already occurred:
For Clowney, one play on the first day of this year has created all of the preseason buzz he needs. Thanks to a 45-time run as the “Best of the Best” play on ESPN’s Sportscenter, Clowney’s decapitating hit of Michigan’s Vincent Smith has cemented him as a household name and Heisman favorite.
3. South Carolina’s Defensive Line won’t allow for Clowney to be double teamed
It’s no question that Clowney will garner numerous double teams and various schemes to try to stop him. And while some teams may be able to stop him for a play here or there, South Carolina’s strong defensive line won’t allow teams to solely focus on Clowney. Senior Chaz Sutton, Junior J.T. Surratt, and Junior Kelcy Quarles anchor a USC defensive line that ranked 6th in the country in sacks in 2012. Teams will not be able to focus solely on Clowney, which will allow him to dominate.
And three reasons why you will not see Clowney in New York:
1. A “good” offensive player will have a “great” season
While there is no clear offensive front runner for the Heisman, there are various offensive stand outs that could possibly make a case for themselves. While Johnny Manziel has had an off season he would rather forget, he is still coming off a Heisman season in which he had over 5,000 all purpose yards and threw for 26 touchdowns. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is coming off a year in which he threw for 36 TD’s, 3896 yards, and enters 2013 with an extremely talented group of skill players around him. Alabama’s AJ McCarron has seemed to fly under the radar, leading his team to two straight national championships, throwing for 30 TD’s and only 3 INT. And other players such as Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater have the skill and firepower to make Heisman cases for themselves.
2. Everyone team will scheme specifically for him
Jadeveon Clowney has never flown under the radar. Since coming out of high school as the #1 national recruit and announcing his commitment to South Carolina on national TV, Clowney has never been quite out of the spotlight. But thanks to “The Hit” and all of the media attention he has received since, every team South Carolina plays this season will have a specific scheme for Clowney and know exactly where he is on every play. Whether they will actually be able to stop him is an entirely different question. But the fact is that from North Carolina on August 29th to Clemson on November 30th, every team will do whatever it takes to not allow him to single handedly beat them.
3. Clowney will fail to live up to his own expectations
If any defensive player finished a game with 7 tackles and 1 sack, it would be considered a great game. But would those numbers be considered a great game for a player who had 4.5 sacks against in-state rival Clemson in 2012 and preserved a USC win against Tennessee with a late game sack of Tyler Bray? Clowney has set the bar astronomically high for himself and will have to improve on his 2012 numbers (13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for a loss). For Clowney to garner an invitation to New York, he will have threaten the single season record for sacks (24 by Terrell Suggs in 2004) as well as have more game-changing moments to build off of his “Heisman moment” Outback Bowl hit.