Critics continue to question Clowney’s commitment

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After his second college football season, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was viewed as such a can’t-miss prospect that it was seen as a foregone conclusion that he would have been the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, if only he had been eligible. But now Clowney is in the middle of his third college football season, and he’s no longer universally praised.

Throughout this season, Clowney has been met by criticism that he takes plays off, doesn’t hustle, and has generally bought his own hype. Some of the most thorough criticism yet comes from Bucky Brooks, the former NFL player who now works as an analyst for NFL Media. Brooks wrote a detailed profile of Clowney in which he lumps his concerns about Clowney under the heading of “football character.”

“I believe there are legitimate concerns about his football character,” Brooks writes. “He has appeared distracted by the limelight and attention that accompanies his reputation as a potential top pick; it appears to have affected his preparation for the season. Clowney has struggled with his conditioning throughout the season and has battled a handful of bumps and bruises that have impacted his play. Additionally, he has repeatedly taken plays off and appeared disinterested in the middle of games, which is a red flag for scouts looking for a potential difference-maker at the top of the draft.”

Like everyone who has seen Clowney play, Brooks is impressed with Clowney’s natural talent: “Clowney is a spectacular athlete with a rare combination of size, speed, strength and explosiveness,” Brooks writes. But Brooks questions whether Clowney will ever live up to his potential.

There may be a kernel of truth to the criticisms: Clowney has just two sacks this season and hasn’t always dominated on Saturdays the way you’d expect for a guy who has the talent to be starting on Sundays.

Still, even when Clowney isn’t getting to the quarterback, his presence is making a significant difference. It’s obvious from watching the way opposing teams double Clowney and run away from him that they still view him as a major threat. South Carolina defensive line coach Deke Adams told the Post and Courier that while Clowney isn’t making quite as many plays as he’d like, the talk that he doesn’t play hard is wrong.

“He knows as well as everybody that he’s missed a couple,” Adams said. “He’s left some out there, but it is what it is. He’s being blocked by two or three guys, and there are times when he’s had a chance to make a couple plays that he didn’t. He knows that. He’s playing hard. That’s all we can ask him to continue to do, is play hard and those things will happen.”

Clowney probably won’t be the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft because the Jaguars will probably take a quarterback with the first overall pick. But for all the criticism he’s taken, Clowney is still the favorite to be the first non-quarterback drafted.

39 responses to “Critics continue to question Clowney’s commitment

  1. The Dude makes one *great* play in a bowl game and now he’s the next great wonder of the world?

  2. buccaboo says:
    Nov 9, 2013 11:23 AM

    The Dude makes one *great* play in a bowl game and now he’s the next great wonder of the world?


    I completely agree. I never even heard of this dude until that bowl game and haven’t heard much about him since. Why is he hyped so much?!

  3. I understand the criticism but the dude is a total beast. The only reason his stats aren’t super high this year is because he is getting double teamed every game. He had more than just one good play last year also, he’s a dominant force. And this is coming from a Clemson fan.

  4. He doesn’t even warrant a 1st round pick IMO. People forget about the talent around him on that SCAR d-line. Even with the big hit in the outback bowl he had a wide open lane to run through, another thing people fail to realize.

  5. He may not be the next LT (he may not even be the next JJ Watt or JPP pre back surgery), but I’d take him. I don’t think the guy is going to get less strong or less quick at the next level when football is a job 24/7.

  6. The situation with Clowney reminds me of Aundray Bruce from Auburn. Bruce was drafted number 1 overall sometime in the late 80s. He was going to be the heir apparent to LT in terms of being dominant 3-4 OLBs. He was bigger, faster, and stronger than anyone else who ever played the position. The only concern was that he had an inconsistent motor. In regard to Clowney, you would have expected that he would be highly motivated to play hard. He still is yet to win his first multi-million dollar payday. As a GM, you would have to be concerned that the guy didn’t play hard when he seemingly had a lot on the line. Compare that to his motivation after he signs his big rookie contract. Will he work hard to be great? Maybe, but there certainly is justification in doubting that.

  7. When you have uninformed people posting that he doesn’t even warrant a first round pick, its obvious they don’t watch the games. He’s a great prospect as he plays equally stout against the run and pass.

    Has anyone sat and wondered maybe this guy has seen two of his teammates, Latimore who was previously thought of as a sure-fire first round pick and another RB this year, get their knees exploded in catastrophic fashion and he’s trying to lay low until he can, you know, actually play professionally instead of to make Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, and the NCAA money? But I guess that makes him “selfish,” lol.

  8. Maybe he should sign a room full of paraphernalia for money, get busted for public drunkenness and maybe go to some parties to start fights.

    That’ll surely show how dedicated he is. Then he could always beat up on his teammates in the locker room.

  9. Maybe… just maybe he sees no value in going all out in college and risking serious injury. College will not pay him a cent if he gets hurt.

    His pay day is the NFL draft. He will go in the first round because someone will take a risk on the character.

    Hope he falls to the PATS and they scope him up. If BB cannot motivate him and playing for a championship cannot motive him while getting paid a lot of money, nothing will

  10. There’s no doubt that Clowney is ridiculously talented and an elite prospect…..but I’ve never seen a player generate such a tremendous amount of national hype based on one friggin play.

    I mean sure, he’s made plenty of other plays and had some great games…..but ask the average fan what Clowney has done to deserve such hype, and that one play is the only thing they know about.

  11. Some facts that come into play here:

    -Teams draft on potential. This guy could literally stop playing today and someone will take him in the first round. Maybe not #1, but certainly in the top 15 leading to point two:

    -The days of the big rookie contract are gone. The contract differences in the first round are nowhere near as large as they used to be. Everyone knows that the difference can be made up in endorsements and that the big money in the NFL is in the second contract. So anyone thinking he will lose his motivation once he signs his “big rookie contract” is unfamiliar with how the league now works.

    -For a difference of a few million dollars, that if you have any faith in your own abilities you think you can make up later, would you rather be drafted by Jacksonville or a borderline playoff team drafting 15th?

    – JC knows, or at least believes, that the only thing possibly standing in his way from NFL millions is a serious injury this season.

    Scouts may make mistakes, but I don’t think they are stupid. It’s the public that rates Clowney so highly because of one big hit, not the teams. They draft on size, speed, talent, and potential.

    For every example someone can come on here and make about someone whose attitude overcame their talent and made them a flop, I can come up with a player where these same types of things were said and they turned out just fine. Cam Newton comes to mind. There were more articles leading up to the draft demeaning his character than just about any overall #1 I’ve ever seen. How did that work out?

    And how many teams these days are wishing they had taken a shot on Vontaze Burfict?

  12. ryann252013 says:
    Nov 9, 2013 11:45 AM
    He doesn’t even warrant a 1st round pick IMO. People forget about the talent around him on that SCAR d-line. Even with the big hit in the outback bowl he had a wide open lane to run through, another thing people fail to realize.

    I’ll take this a step further… In my opinion he doesn’t even deserve to be drafted. Priority free agent at best!

  13. Realfootballfan,

    Yes, it would be the very definition of selfishness if Clowney is “laying low” to protect his health instead of going all out for the team. It’s understandable, but selfish.

  14. If you watch the replay of his “signature” play in the bowl game against Michigan, Clowney was unblocked. I had the opportunity to see Taylor and Peppers play multiple times during their years at North Carolina. In Taylor’s signature game, a Gator Bowl matchup vs. Michigan, he knocked the first two Michigan quarterbacks out of the game. No comparison at all. Clowney lacks the passion. That cannot be taught.

  15. have to love the comments about never heard of the guy, all the hype just from one play etc…..for those of you who only watch sportscenter..Clowney was the USA Today Defensive Player of the year, and Rivals, Scouts, and BSPN #1 ranked overall recruit…..I can only dream that he drops to us…please , please, please let it happen

  16. Stats in 2012:
    SC single-season record 13.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss with 54 tackles (40 solo) and 3 forced fumbles.

    Stats in 2011:
    8.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss with 36 tackles and five forced fumbles.

    He plays in the SEC. He makes incredible individual plays. He backs up blockers, goes around blockers with equal ease.

    Guys brining up LT as if Clowney cannot compare – you’re comparing players from different eras of the game. You’re comparing a kid with two years of college football to a guy who went on to change the game. Not to mention, LT was a DRUG ADDICT. Wanna talk about character risks?

    *cough* Get over yourselves people. He’s legit.

  17. Again, the media loses!!!

    Clowney = #1 overall pick???????

    A defensive end as the #1 overall pick in a Golden Age of offense … really???

    Why take someone who gives you dramatically piss poor odds to help you score points when every sport’s most basic method to a win is to score more points than the other team???

    Make it a quarterback!!!!

    Go Marcus Mariota!!!

  18. Sack numbers are one of the most misleading statistics on the planet. I’m not saying Clowney will be or won’t be a superstar at the next level, but trying to judge a defensive end on numbers alone will always be going about it wrong.

    At a certain level, a player almost becomes like a force of nature that the opposing offense must game plan around. The same way snow will cause the offense to run the ball more and play in more two TE sets, offensive coordinators must game plan around Clowney’s presence. At this level and the next Clowney will require double, or even triple teams to prevent him from getting to the quarterback. Snow will never get a sack, and even if Clowney only racks up 5 sacks on the season, it doesn’t mean his presence alone isn’t making a major difference in the game.

    Adrian Peterson was a perfect example of this force of nature principle Thursday night. Even though he averaged only 3 yards per carry, he won the game for the Vikings simply because of the pressure his very presence put on the Redskins defense. Though it was not an impressive night for him statistically, just having AP in he huddle allowed even Christian Ponder to have a decent game against a compromised secondary. I’m not saying Clowney will have a career anything like AP’s, just that numbers don’t mean that much for guys who command so much respect from the other team.

  19. Awesome!!!! I hope all the bloggers that are true “scouts” continue to affect his stock…my Lions would love to have a line consisting of Ansah, Suh, Fairley and Clowney……LOL

    Please keep on saying he’s a bust so he drops and drops….Hooray!!!

  20. This is very similar to what scouts had said about Vernon Gholston and look how that turned out. I wouldn’t touch this guy higher than the second round.

  21. classyjacklambert says:
    Nov 9, 2013 11:41 AM
    I understand the criticism but the dude is a total beast. The only reason his stats aren’t super high this year is because he is getting double teamed every game. He had more than just one good play last year also, he’s a dominant force. And this is coming from a Clemson fan.
    He’s not the first D lineman to be double teamed on Saturdays. The difference? Guys like Suh still registered sacks and takles for loss.

    He’s believing the hype and is taking plays off to get that #1 pick. However; his laziness is affecting his stock.

  22. Love the argument that “he’s double teamed every play.” Yeah, good point, because NFL offenses will NEVER double team a dominant defensive player.

    If Clowney can’t beat double teams against the likes of Vanderbilt and North Carolina, I laugh at how he’ll handle double teams in the League.

  23. Everyone with a pick from 2nd to 10th says he is inconsistent and everyone ahead of them should pass on Cloeney.

  24. He did not come out of nowhere with one play.

    He was the top rated player in the country, all positions, in the class of 2011.

    I think the Lattimore injury weighs heavy on his mind. I was surpised Clowney came back to SC this year as opposed to spending time with a trainer or making a little money in the CFL.

    Do not complain that he is paying like he is not getting paid, if he is not getting paid.

  25. There is something tp those that say “please say he is a bust so he drops.” Every team that doesn’t need a QB will have only bad things to say about Clowney in the hopes he drops to them.

  26. That big monster hit in the Michigan bowl game suddenly put Clowney at the top of the draft prospects. It was one play.

    I don’t know for sure but it feels like he played this season preserving himself so as not to risk injury that would impact his draft status. Ironically that approach may prove to hurt his status.

  27. First if the author would look at all the interviews the coaches for the teams Carolina played against, he would see that they all stated that 92% of all offensive plays are run away from clowney or quick passes. If my figures are correct 187 plays out of 223 this year have been away from clowney or quick passes. Can the author name one other college player with that impact in college football. Can the Author explain how he expects Clowney in the SEC to have huge numbers when all the plays are away from him. If you are going to write a article facts do mean something or tell your readers, you are not including key facts in your comments. Over the next three games watch how when Clowney moves around the offense also moves the tightends and backs to where he is. What other defensive player demands that respect. For those you only know the Hit, youtube have several games over the past two years, for example the Clemson game where Clowney had 4 sacks against the #1 offensive team. Lastly on Espn the NFL Scouts all stated Clowney will be the first drafted because they understand all teams are planning away from him, it not his numbers, he is already proven. So go write about tennis

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