He chose the Gamecocks over Clemson, Alabama, LSU and Florida State, along with interest from many other of the top programs in the country.
As a true freshman, Clowney was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches after being credited with 36 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries while seeing action in all 13 games.
Clowney exploded onto the national scene in 2012, finishing sixth in the Heisman balloting after setting the school single-season record with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. He became the first sophomore to win the Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, and was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award and Bednarik Awards.
Unlike most collegiate pass rushers, Clowney owns a complete game, based on spectacular athleticism and refined technique. He complements his speed rush with a terrific interior move and has the strength, toughness and vision to star against the run, as well. Clowney has struggled to match his stellar production of 2012, but his value lies in his ability to impact the play-calling and personnel opponents use with him on the field.
Remarkably gifted athletically and offering better technique than many give him credit for, Clowney appears destined to contend for sack titles early in his NFL career. (10/20/13).
Simply too quick for trap blocks, consistently flashing into the backfield to beat oncoming blockers (as in the case of the famous Michigan tackle for loss, forced and recovered fumble). Good flexibility to dip around the tackle's reach, turn the corner sharply and close on the quarterback in a flash.
Uses his hands well to fight through blockers' attempts to corral him, demonstrating refined hand placement and impressive strength. Does not rely on his outside speed rush, complementing his burst with an equally effective interior rush due to a terrific swim move and very good lateral agility.
Frequently used on twists and stunts, in which he loops inside to attack slower-footed interior linemen, demonstrating the toughness and athleticism to handle inside duties. Only occasionally asked to rush from the two-point (stand-up) stance, but is effective here, as well, making him potentially equally valuable as a rusher in the 3-4 alignment.
Far from just a pass rusher. Uses his terrific quickness off the snap to stop running plays before blockers can get to him and shows underrated core strength to anchor when they do. Rarely is blocked for long and shows good vision to locate the ball, as well as the hustle to pursue downfield. Generates great closing speed to force some eye-popping collisions which resulted in eight forced fumbles over his first two seasons of NCAA football.
Weaknesses: Could struggle to match the unrealistic expectations that come with his hype. Disappears for stretches of the game, raising some questions about his level of conditioning.
Typically too athletic for cut-blocks but was knocked to the ground on occasion and is more vulnerable to these blocks than many pass-rushers due to his long legs. Good awareness and reaction to the quarterback's attempt to loft passes over the top of him, showing impressive timing and leaping ability to knock passes down but less-than-ideal ball-skills to complete the interception.
Announced that he is planning to undergo post-season surgery to remove bone spurs in his right foot, which could keep him from participating in the 2014 Scouting Combine, should he declare early for the draft.
Compares To: Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills - Like the last defensive end to earn the No. 1 overall selection, Clowney possesses an exceedingly rare combination of size, strength and athleticism. Clowney is a more pro-ready talent than Williams was when the Houston Texans nabbed him out of NC State in 2006 and, as the consensus top prep prospect when he signed with South Carolina, he has already demonstrated the ability to handle high expectations.