Mike Strange: Jadeveon Clowney may hit everything in his way to the Heisman

Mike Strange
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney talks with reporters during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Photo by Dave Martin

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney talks with reporters during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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HOOVER, Ala. — The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, doesn’t arrive at SEC Media Days until Wednesday morning.

The SEC’s best player beat him to town Tuesday afternoon.

South Carolina’s extraordinary defensive end Jadeveon Clowney parked his 6-foot-6 chassis on a chair behind a table and looked out at a Tim Tebow-sized flock of waiting media.

He spoke of remaining humble, avoiding off-season nonsense — attention, Mr. Manziel — and wolfing down six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the other day when his weight dropped a couple of pounds below the goal.

He didn’t have to mention the 4.46-yard dash he had clocked the other day. Word of that remarkable statistic had preceded him.

“I’m blessed to be where I’m at now,’’ Clowney said.

Where he is, is unofficially on the clock as the top pick of the 2014 NFL draft.

Before that, he might win the Heisman Trophy. Don’t laugh.

“I think he can,’’ Florida offensive lineman Jon Halapio said Tuesday. “You should play against him. You’d feel the same way.’’

I was asking Florida coach Will Muschamp where he’d rank Clowney among

“Number one,’’ Muschamp blurted before the question was finished.

“He’s a guy you better account for every snap. I’d like to see him come out early (for the NFL draft) before our game.’’

The emphasis is on “every” snap.

For 70 of 71 plays on the afternoon of last Oct. 27, Clowney was held in check by Tennessee’s Antonio “Tiny” Richardson. Richardson was having the game of his UT life at offensive tackle, one that should serve him well in the NFL draft evaluation down the line.

One play got away, however. Trailing 38-35, the Vols drove late, penetrating the Gamecocks’ 20. Clowney, for once all day, managed to beat Richardson and mayhem immediately ensued. He sacked quarterback Tyler Bray, knocked the ball free and South Carolina recovered. End of story.

Of course that play wasn’t nearly as jaw-dropping as the one Clowney made against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.

You’ve seen it a hundred times on ESPN. Even the Dalai Lama knows it by heart.

Michigan tailback Vincent Smith takes a handoff and then his world ends. Clowney explodes into his face, knocks Smith’s helmet off and snatches up the fumbled football with one big paw.

“That was a freaking heck of a hit,’’ said Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson. “That was unbelievable.’’

I used to cite Alabama defensive back George Teague running down a Miami receiver and stripping the ball from him in the 1992 national title game as the best defensive play I’d ever seen. Now, it’s Clowney’s one-man SWAT team raid in the Outback Bowl.

But even the man himself volunteered that the play he made against Tennessee was, while less violent, more meaningful.

“It saved us,’’ he said, “in the last couple of minutes to win that game.’’

Once upon a time, Clowney might have been playing for Tennessee that afternoon.

Pre-Steve Spurrier, South Carolina was a sleeping giant. The Gamecocks were usually mediocre, occasionally horrible. In-state talent was always available, but poaching a prospect like Clowney — he’s from Rock Hill, S.C. — was common for more prosperous rivals like the Vols or Georgia.

Video from YouTube

Albert Haynesworth is Exhibit A, but not the alpha. The 1998 national champions had three Palmetto products starting on the defensive line: Shaun Ellis, Darwin Walker and Jeff Coleman.

These days, the Clowneys are more likely to stay home and make life miserable for the Vols one day a year.

Can Clowney make enough people miserable in spectacular enough fashion to become the second defensive player ever to win the Heisman? That’s a storyline for the 2013 season.

The first to do it, of course, is a bitter memory for Vol fans. Charles Woodson of Michigan snatched the 1997 Heisman that was once deemed a lock for Peyton Manning.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, a linebacker, finished second to Manziel last year. Clowney, as a sophomore, was sixth.

“It’s not like a goal,’’ Clowney said. “The goal for me is winning the SEC. If the Heisman comes, it’ll be there for me.’’

New York would be icing. But the cake is in Atlanta.

Get in his way at your own peril.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

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Comments » 19

orange_eVOLution writes:

Clowney will only dream of a Heisman. He has to play against 'Tiny'. Dream on, Clowney.

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to orange_eVOLution:

Clowney will only dream of a Heisman. He has to play against 'Tiny'. Dream on, Clowney.

I agree 100%. Tiny had Clowney's number the whole game last year, as he will this time around, too. The sack happened because he was lined on the other side from Tiny. Spurrier has a notable penchant to play his boys when they're injured, and this fella's going to be a marked DE all season long. Without Clowney, the game chickens' defense just won't hack it against a lot of the SEC's O lines. Lucky for them, their schedule is most likely the weakest in the conference.....as usual. I think our Vols will take 'em in Knoxville.

OwensboroVol writes:

Manziel was definitely a great performer at the QB position last year. But lets face it, Clowney was the best player in College Football and maybe Football period. This kid is absolutely amazing and if he played for Tennessee We would have all been raising cain because he didn't win the Heisman last year. I am a lifelong Tennessee Fan, but truth is truth and this kid is the real deal and is best player in College Football.

SummittsCourt writes:

This is the problem with the media these days. Let's wait until December to give him the trophy shall we.

62vol writes:

It will be hard for Clowney to be as good this year for several reasons. More double teams, more knowledge of his moves.
Richardson dominated him last year. This is just more media hype.

CoverOrange writes:

That blow up of the Michigan back was a busted OL assignment and the RB was stopped like a statue waiting to get hit. Big hit, yeah, but not a big play by Clowney. The Tennessee game was a big play. Clowney caused the fumble but I don't think he got a sack on that one. Maybe disremember.

FanNotSheep writes:

I don't really believe the conspiracy theories of Vol fans that the Heisman was stolen from Manning just because he played for UT. Woodson was chosen by the media because they hate nothing more than a successful southern family that tries to do things the right way. Couldn't stand it that Peyton wasn't in dire straits financially and could live the dream of his senior season at UT before crowds the NFL only wishes it could seat.

The only reasons a defensive player was 2nd last year: 1) Manziel was lapping the field, and 2) the runner up was from Notre Dame. It wasn't like anyone other than Johnny Football had a chance of winning.

Is the media bored enough to vote Clowney in? I doubt it, even though it could be hard to top a true freshman winning it last year. Just doubt Clowney will generate enough highlights all season long to beat a great running back or quarterback.

wononta writes:

Hats off to Jadaveon Clowney, outstanding football player, deserving of every accolade he recieves.
But I am just about sick of Manziel. Does every story and TV program have to be led around to Manziel? Yeah, Johnny Football is great, so is pizza. Eventually I have had enough, and I dont want either one crammed down my throat.

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

I don't really believe the conspiracy theories of Vol fans that the Heisman was stolen from Manning just because he played for UT. Woodson was chosen by the media because they hate nothing more than a successful southern family that tries to do things the right way. Couldn't stand it that Peyton wasn't in dire straits financially and could live the dream of his senior season at UT before crowds the NFL only wishes it could seat.

The only reasons a defensive player was 2nd last year: 1) Manziel was lapping the field, and 2) the runner up was from Notre Dame. It wasn't like anyone other than Johnny Football had a chance of winning.

Is the media bored enough to vote Clowney in? I doubt it, even though it could be hard to top a true freshman winning it last year. Just doubt Clowney will generate enough highlights all season long to beat a great running back or quarterback.

I agree with you to a large extent. However, ESPN and, to a lesser extent, CBS Sports, have displayed a dislike for UT......all sports and not just football.....and I can't truthfully explain their vendetta.....just that it's there. There seems to be a disdain for southern, Christian goody-goody types, with a strange deference to tattooed up thugs. If just the punkish sports fans were holding up all that animus toward good fellows, it'd be easier to understand. It seems that bullies and thugs provide better writing materials for sports writers. A portion of the media has a grudge against UT sports, and its source is underlying and is rooted within a group of executives within their power structures. Nothing makes a program attain admiration more, though, than just winning a lot of games. GBO!

murrayvol writes:

Clowney
1)is the best player in college football
2)will be the 1st player taken in the draft (barring injury)
3)and is totally worthy of all the hype

But winning the "trophy awarded in NYC" is a whole other deal, especially if you're on the defensive side of the ball.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to sameolvolalum:

I agree with you to a large extent. However, ESPN and, to a lesser extent, CBS Sports, have displayed a dislike for UT......all sports and not just football.....and I can't truthfully explain their vendetta.....just that it's there. There seems to be a disdain for southern, Christian goody-goody types, with a strange deference to tattooed up thugs. If just the punkish sports fans were holding up all that animus toward good fellows, it'd be easier to understand. It seems that bullies and thugs provide better writing materials for sports writers. A portion of the media has a grudge against UT sports, and its source is underlying and is rooted within a group of executives within their power structures. Nothing makes a program attain admiration more, though, than just winning a lot of games. GBO!

It seems to me that ESPN turned against UT over the ouster of Majors back in 1992. But the Heisman conspiracy was actually (and ironically) born when Majors himself was robbed back in 1956. That was way before ESPN, but more importantly in my mind, the award went to Hornung of Notre Dame despite their 2-9 record, just one more example of anti-Southern media bias.

I agree that ESPN doesn't like UT but they have focused their hatred on the entire SEC now. If there's a way the media can prevent an SEC team from making the national title game you better believe they will. You see, the media can't get over the fact that they can't play the games -- all they can do is write about them. And it makes matters worse up there in that pencil-neck-geekdom called the Big 10 that despite their superiority complex the northerners can't beat the southern boys on the field. They will do all they can to beat us on paper (ballots).

SummittsCourt writes:

The espn vendetta with UT started with the Phil Fulmer/Alabama stuff and continued when Pat Summitt called out cheater Geno for recruiting violations.

Either way, I've seen enough examples of their disdain to know that it is real.

volboy81 writes:

ahhhh, the HeisTman Trophy...is that thing still around?

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

The espn vendetta with UT started with the Phil Fulmer/Alabama stuff and continued when Pat Summitt called out cheater Geno for recruiting violations.

Either way, I've seen enough examples of their disdain to know that it is real.

They also didn't like that UT fired Majors after his heart surgery in '92 and replaced him with Fulmer. Of course, Majors sealed his own fate by hitting up prominent Vol boosters for more money at the time Fulmer was winning big ballgames. Johnny certainly deserved more money but went about it the wrong way and at the worst possible time.

Majors did have pals at ESPN (Beano Cook for one) who most people think held a grudge that eventually hurt Manning's Heisman chances. I just feel that it goes deeper than UT, and has everything to do with Manning being from a prosperous southern family and having a clean-cut image. The politically correct crowd, led by big city media types, hate that worse than anything, and if they can't find skeletons in your closet to bring you down to their level they will certainly get their revenge any way they can. So they drum up a campaign for a defensive back from their favorite conference and say it was because Manning couldn't beat Florida. Never mind that Manning played offense and Spurrier's Gators threw 60 points on our defense in one of those games, it was all Peyton's fault we lost. But Peyton's story wasn't one the PC media wanted to tell, so they proved their own stupidity by taking the Heisman away from the guy who earned it -- who happens to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in college and the NFL.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

That blow up of the Michigan back was a busted OL assignment and the RB was stopped like a statue waiting to get hit. Big hit, yeah, but not a big play by Clowney. The Tennessee game was a big play. Clowney caused the fumble but I don't think he got a sack on that one. Maybe disremember.

I believe a forced fumble by the QB on a dropback is considered a sack, or maybe half of one, but I could be wrong. No doubt Clowney is a special talent, but as many have said, Tiny did pretty well against him last year. One more for the "FWIW file": I believe I read that Justin Worley's team beat Clowney's team in the SC HS championship game.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

They also didn't like that UT fired Majors after his heart surgery in '92 and replaced him with Fulmer. Of course, Majors sealed his own fate by hitting up prominent Vol boosters for more money at the time Fulmer was winning big ballgames. Johnny certainly deserved more money but went about it the wrong way and at the worst possible time.

Majors did have pals at ESPN (Beano Cook for one) who most people think held a grudge that eventually hurt Manning's Heisman chances. I just feel that it goes deeper than UT, and has everything to do with Manning being from a prosperous southern family and having a clean-cut image. The politically correct crowd, led by big city media types, hate that worse than anything, and if they can't find skeletons in your closet to bring you down to their level they will certainly get their revenge any way they can. So they drum up a campaign for a defensive back from their favorite conference and say it was because Manning couldn't beat Florida. Never mind that Manning played offense and Spurrier's Gators threw 60 points on our defense in one of those games, it was all Peyton's fault we lost. But Peyton's story wasn't one the PC media wanted to tell, so they proved their own stupidity by taking the Heisman away from the guy who earned it -- who happens to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in college and the NFL.

If your theory about a widespread media dislike of Southern sports "gentry" is correct, the seeds of Peyton's shafting were sown the previous year when Danny Wuerffel of Florida won the Heisman. The fact that he beat UT when that meant something but Peyton never beat Florida also played into it. The idea of TWO STRAIGHT, well-spoken, smart, family-oriented, southern Christian QBs from the SEC winning the Heisman would have been too much for the Yankee media to bear; if Charles Woodson hadn't existed, they would have invented somebody ELSE if necessary.

gohawks1 writes:

It wouldn't hurt my feelings to see Clowney win the heisman... the dude is a beast. I still hope the Vols beat the gamecocks this year, though.

RememberWhen writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Manziel was definitely a great performer at the QB position last year. But lets face it, Clowney was the best player in College Football and maybe Football period. This kid is absolutely amazing and if he played for Tennessee We would have all been raising cain because he didn't win the Heisman last year. I am a lifelong Tennessee Fan, but truth is truth and this kid is the real deal and is best player in College Football.

Please tell us why JC is "the best player in college football" because that is the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard! Yes, he's the most over-hyped guy in college football but he's far from the best player. The guy is living off of about 3 highlight plays over two years. He doesn't play hard every down. His stats are pathetic for "the best player in college football." He gets his numbers against the mediocre teams/players he faces - and they aren't anything to write home about! So please do tell us why this guy is the best. I will bet anybody any amount the guy never makes a Pro Bowl and will be a journeyman NFLer before washing out in about 5-6 years. Somebody is about to make a franchise wrecking mistake by taking this guy #1 - or even top 10.

RememberWhen writes:

...and even if he were the best player it will be impossible for Clowney to win the Heisman when SC loses 4 games - and they WILL lose 4 games.

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