Clowney wows scouts, proves Scout right

Jadeveon Clowney jumps the long jump during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Brian Spurlock/Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been quite a year for Jadeveon Clowney.

This former University of South Carolina defensive end went from media darling after his ESPY winning hit against Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl to the guy that lacked the desire to play the game last fall.

Now he’s back on the pedestal after a terrific NFL Combine and an even better pro day.

Did folks just now realize that Clowney was an extraordinary athlete? I mean people sounded stunned at the speed, explosion and athletic ability he showed in Columbia, S.C. last week.

I have been saying it for a year now – Jadeveon Clowney is the top non-quarterback to enter the draft in years. He very well could be the next Lawrence Taylor or Derrick Thomas.

How and why do I say that?

It’s simple folks; guys like Clowney don’t grow on trees. He’s a once in a generation player. You just don’t find defensive ends that are 6-foot-5, 270-pounds, that run 4.5 [forty] and explode off the edge.

The limelight is nothing new for Clowney. He was the slam dunk No. 1 recruit in the nation in the Class of 2011 from Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe.

The guy that knows him best is Bobby Carroll. Carroll was his high school coach and he knew right away that Clowney was going to be something else. In 2007 he was on the freshman team as a 6-foot-3, 215-pound running back and defensive end. He scored 32 touchdowns and racked up a ton of sacks. Then came spring football the following May.

“That’s when I really knew,” Carroll said. “I remember thinking, oh my god, we have something special.”

Shortly there after Clowney became a household name in recruiting. We all knew he was a super freak and this was long before he signed to play for Steve Spurrier and the University of South Carolina.

Clowney was so good and so well thought of coming out of high school that he’s now our bench mark as the top recruit. He is the best defensive prospect I have ever seen in 22 years of covering recruiting. My colleauges at Scout.com agree.

“He’s the best defensive end prospect of my 13 years in the field,” said Scott Kennedy, Director of Scouting for Scout.com. “And he’s the most complete defensive end prospect I’ve ever seen in high school and college.”

The year before Clowney graduated high school the No. 1 recruit in the nation was Ronald Powell (University of Florida). Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman absolutely loved Powell and the upside he brought to the Gators. Then he saw Clowney.

“Powell was considered as a similar prospect but he was dwarfed by Clowney’s speed, athleticism, skill set and explosion," Huffman said.  "Clowney sealed not just being the top prospect in that class, but easily the top prospect I’ve seen in my 12 years covering recruiting.  He was just on another level.  You could see quickly and easily why he was the consensus No. 1 player in the country by everybody.”

So he came to the Gamecocks with the hype and delivered his first two seasons in Columbia. Then the hit seen around the world happened against the Wolverines. That put Clowney in another stratosphere all together. He then came crashing down to earth with a very disappointing 2013 campaign. Clowney was schemed against brilliantly, battling double and even triple teams as well as nagging bone spurs in his right foot.

“I can’t really explain it except that I think he hit a wall after that Michigan hit,” Carroll said. “The media blew him up. What else could Clowney do? At some point it all had to come to a stop.”

After this past season Clowney had something to prove. He came to South Carolina and wanted to emerge as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. That dream is still alive, especially after his two workouts at the NFL Combine and pro day.

“The negativity and that attention motivated Clowney,” Carroll said. “I am telling you, Clowney plays with desire and he plays hard. And he prepared this off-season and worked hard. He wants to be the best to ever play. It’s not about the money. With him it’s about winning.”

I think it’s crazy to see all of these mock drafts with Clowney not the No. 1 guy. I have nothing against Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson and the top quarterbacks. They are all going to be terrific players and but they are not Jadeveon Clowney.

Sure, it’s a different NFL. Professional football has become a passer’s game and offenses are more open than ever. Even more to the point of why you shouldn’t pass on this pass rush specialists and why Clowney’s the clear No. 1 player in this draft.

Don’t be fooled by one season and don’t get too caught up in the numbers. You always have to look somewhere in between. And when you add it all up, Clowney’s the guy and it’s not even close.