February 13, 2011
Jadeveon Clowney, a dominant defensive end and the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, is expected to make an immediate impact in college. Should he do that, the man who coached him at Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe High would not be the least bit surprised.
“He started on the ninth grade team as a freshman and already was 6-foot-3, 200 pounds,” recalled former South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll. “He scored 36 touchdowns.”
Now a senior, Clowney is perhaps the most coveted high school player in recent memory. At 10:15 a.m. Monday inside the South Pointe auditorium, the bigger-than-life, 6-foot-6, 247-pound Clowney will end his intense, exhausting and closely watched recruitment by signing with Alabama, Clemson or South Carolina.
While Clowney maintained as recently as last week his three top schools were even, Carroll and others suggest his proximity to Clemson and South Carolina give those two programs a significant edge. Rock Hill is 68 miles from Columbia and 124 to Clemson. But Clowney, who is said to be extremely close with his family, lives more than 400 miles from Tuscaloosa.
The Gamecocks have long been considered the program to beat. Clemson, though, apparently made a significant push down the stretch, and Clowney surprised many when he announced during a National Signing Day interview on ESPNU that the Tigers were very much in the picture. Nonetheless, Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell predicts the Gamecocks will claim the prize.
“There is no suspense to me,” Farrell said. “I’d be stunned if he went any place but South Carolina.”
A Clowney signing would give what already is considered the best Clemson recruiting class most can recall a fifth five-star recruit. But his signature would be equally big for South Carolina, which in 2010 won its first SEC East title, something skeptics thought might never be accomplished. The tug-of-war for Clowney might be the biggest story in Palmetto State sports this year.
“Having (South Carolina) and Clemson being the final two teams for the No. 1 player in the country - for the state of South Carolina, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said GamecockCentral.com senior writer Scott Hood.
Why all the fuss over Clowney?
“He’s as special at his position as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Farrell said. “I’ve seen Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. I’ve seen Adrian Peterson at running back. I’ve seen Percy Harvin and Kyle Prater at wide receiver, and on and on it goes. But I’ve never seen a defensive end in the 10 years I’ve been doing this as dominant off the football as this kid is. He knows the snap count on every play it seems like. I’ve never seen anyone get off the ball quicker. That’s what makes him different, and then you throw in all the intangibles, his size, motor, pursuit and athleticism.
“Clowney will run down a play 30 yards downfield, and he has incredible backside pursuit. He just never gives up. That’s rare.”
Clowney’s rise to prominence began in 2008, when he joined the varsity during spring practice.
“He started as a sophomore in 2008,” Carroll said. “He started all 15 games for a team that went 15-0 and he played with some extremely talented guys. When everyone in the world sat back, though, was in the spring that year. He absolutely wreaked havoc in practice every day.
“And we had a ton of (college) coaches at practice.”
From there, Clowney only improved.
Here are some numbers of note:
He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds.
He recorded 19.5 sacks as a senior.
He totaled 144 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 23 sacks, two blocked kicks and 29 quarterback pressures in 2009.
He owns a 36-inch vertical leap.
He power cleans 325 pounds.
In 49 varsity games at South Pointe, he won 43 times.
“He’s the total package,” Carroll said. “I’ve never seen anybody like him. He’s double- and triple-teamed every play. I haven’t seen any high school kids block him. I’ve coached five NFL guys and a bunch of guys who could have made it to the NFL but it didn’t work out. But I don’t think anybody has been like Clowney. He plays extremely hard and has the most instinctively competitive spirit of any kid I’ve seen.”