Senior College Football Columnist

Clowney 2.0 ready to bring the heat from inside

Jadeveon Clowney was the nation's most hyped recruit in 2011. He ended up picking home-state South Carolina over Alabama ultimately and made a pretty big splash on the field in Year One, winning SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Clowney's stats for a rookie, much like the 6-6, 265-pounder's athleticism, were jaw dropping: 12 TFLs, eight sacks, five forced fumbles for the nation's No. 3 defense.

So how much better can he get this year?

Sounds like Clowney 2.0 is going to be a very big problem for rival offensive linemen, and not just offensive tackles. One of the stars of the Gamecocks defense the past few years has been Melvin Ingram (15 TFLs, 10 sacks in 2011). The 280-pounder, who lined up inside on passing situations and gave guards and centers fits with his agility, has moved on to the NFL. Well, guess who is going to be moving into the middle on third-and-longs this year? Mr. Clowney, the freakishly long and explosive defensive end, who it turns out has proven to be quite the headache for the interior of the Gamecocks' O-line this spring.

"I don't think they've blocked him yet when he's been inside," said South Carolina D-line coach Brad Lawing. (South Carolina is about 75 percent done with spring practice.)

A lot of defensive ends aren't always too intrigued at the prospect of shifting inside even in passing situations. After all, there is much more traffic and congestion in the scrum. Lawing didn't have too much trouble convincing Clowney. "He finally bought in when he realized he doesn't have to contain the quarterback there," says Lawing. "It's a two-way go for him and there's a lot more leeway in his pass rush inside there."

Last season, Clowney's toughest on-field adjustment was coming to terms with not being able to simply overpower people any more, as he could in high school.

"He learned they're not gonna call holding in SEC when you stick your shoulder in there," said Lawing. "So he realized what his hands are for, and he's gotten so much better at using them. Now he's starting to combine talent with fundamentals and technique."

That sounds like a very scare combination.
 
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