Senior Writer

Recruit Clowney, SEC seem destined to make perfect couple


Jadeveon Clowney is going to an SEC school.

Make that, Jadeveon Clowney must go to an SEC school.

And the nation's No. 1 recruit may not even know it. Officially, the 6-foot-6 inch, 260-pound defensive end from Rock Hill, S.C. is undecided on his college choice. Unofficially, Clowney is still part-clueless adolescent, unaware of these basic recruiting truths.

Jadeveon Clowney could follow in the footsteps of Nick Fairley (pictured), Terrence Cody and Glenn Dorsey. (Getty Images)  
Jadeveon Clowney could follow in the footsteps of Nick Fairley (pictured), Terrence Cody and Glenn Dorsey. (Getty Images)  
1) The best defensive linemen are in the Southeast. 2) They usually stay home. 3) They are the difference in the SEC boat-racing the rest of the country.

Sure, I'm stating the obvious. Southern kids tend to stay in the South. Clowney's favorites going into Wednesday's National Signing Day seem to be South Carolina and Alabama, but let's not be underplay this situation. Because of guys like him, the SEC has won those five consecutive national championships.

The rest of Clowney's life -- both personal and professional -- rests on the decision he is about to make. All he has to do is consider Auburn's Nick Fairley. Take the Tigers' All-American defensive lineman out of the middle against Oregon and Auburn probably doesn't win the national championship game. If that doesn't move him, Clowney should consider Fairley's about-to-be-huge NFL signing bonus. While he's at it, Clowney should check the existing contract of the Kansas City Chiefs' Glenn Dorsey.

Dorsey was an All-American stud at LSU. Following him in the SEC line of succession were line-collapsers Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus (of Alabama) and Fairley. Dareus and Fairley have arguably been the biggest influences in the past two national title games. Dareus knocked quarterback Colt McCoy out of the '10 game on Texas' fifth play. Fairley was the defensive MVP of this year's game, helping hold the Ducks to 30 points below their average.

Clowney is the next one. If you want to dream, fellow top 10 prospect Anthony Johnson, a defensive tackle from New Orleans, might be the next next one. Johnson is committed to LSU. Of the SEC.

Coaches around the country would give up their complimentary country club memberships just to get in the home of one of those guys. Difference-making defensive linemen are harder to find than an intelligent reality show. Look at what Notre Dame has done this recruiting season. The Irish are projected to finish at, or near, the top of the national recruiting rankings largely because of d-linemen Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt. Both are ranked in the top 30 nationally. Both are from the Southeast.

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Brazil breeds soccer players. Kids grow up playing hockey in Canada. Kenya tends to produce distance runners. In seven of the past nine years,'s top-rated defensive lineman from the Southeast region went to an SEC school.

The exceptions were barely exceptions. All-American DaQuan Bowers, from Bamberg, S.C., went to nearby Clemson in 2008. In 2009, Jacobbi McDaniel, a Greenville, Fla. native, went to Florida State.

Florida isn't crying because two of the top five recruits in the country last year happened to be "imports." Defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia) could be starters in 2011.

It's almost destined all the good ones meet down South. They call him a freak, comparing Clowney to former Florida star Jevon Kearse, The Freak. The kid seems to have his head together. He could become the fourth consecutive No. 1 national recruit not to sign during signing day's bum-rush mash up. Clowney is reportedly waiting until his birthday, Feb. 14, to announce his decision. Anytime recruits do things on their time -- not the recruiters' or the recruiting analysts' -- that's a good thing.

Another sign of stability: As recruiting heated up, Clowney turned off his cell phone. It takes stones to make Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier go to voicemail. When he did take their calls, Clowney heard the usual sweet nothings saying he was unblockable.

"Watch a highlight tape of him," said MaxPreps national football editor Steve Spiewak. "You realize he's a man among boys. He almost has his way every play. I can't imagine him being sufficiently blocked by one man on the high school level."

He'll be blockable at the next level. Hype is great, but Clowney is going to have to prove it all over again at the next (college) level. That's another reason why he'll stay in the SEC. It has the best coaches who are paid the best money for a reason. Saban seems to know a thing or two about defense. South Carolina's Ellis Johnson has been in the business 30 years. His 1999 Alabama defense finished in the top 10. His 2010 defense was 12th against the rush in that glorious SEC East-winning season at Carolina.

"Everyone would be surprised if he didn't go to South Carolina," Spiewak said.

Unless, of course, Clowney goes to Alabama. Doesn't matter, really. As long as it's in the SEC, he and the conference are set.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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