I hesitated to write this article. What, after all, remains to be said about Jadeveon Clowney's draft prospects? Clowney is one of the most talked about NFL Draft prospects ever, a player over whom endless ink has been spilled in an effort to determine whether Clowney is likely to be a once-in-a-generation star or a bust. However, blogging is about nothing if not the endless effort to say something new about endlessly rehashed topics, so here goes: The final installment of "What They're Saying." The Clowney edition.
Let's take a look at what Nolan Nowrocki has to say about Clowney. I picked what I found to be the more thought-provoking comments rather than repeating the typical gushing over Clowney's unique athletic ability.
1. "Is physically tough and will battle through injuries."
Didn't expect to find this one from the pen of a national pundit. It's an accurate assessment, though. While Clowney's history of problems with bone spurs may be a cause for concern if the spurs continue to develop after surgery, Clowney has proven to be anything but a player who shies away from playing through pain, which is what he's often been accused of, particularly after he missed the game against Kentucky this season due to bruised ribs. Clowney has just as often played through painful injuries, particularly in important games when his services were needed. Don't forget that just a couple of games after the Tennessee debacle, Clowney had this huge performance in a losing effort against Tennessee.
Clowney also played through pain from his bone spurs in many big games. His legendary performance against Clemson in 2012 came a game after he missed a game against Wofford.
2. "Was a 20-year-old junior affected by turnover on the defensive coaching staff. Could benefit tremendously from a stable positional coach and strong, veteran mentor on the defensive line who will hold him accountable, show him the way and serve as a father figure."
This is one aspect of the Clowney story that perhaps hasn't gotten enough air play. Clowney entered the program under longtime defensive line coach Brad Lawing, an expert developer of talent who quickly brought Clowney up to speed with the college game during Clowney's first two years in the program. When Lawing departed after the 2012 season, he was replaced by Deke Adams. Although we can hope he turns out to be a good hire, Adams's coaching has been a minor cause of angst among the Carolina faithful since then. Adams encourages his linemen to aggressively seek to make plays deep in the backfield, which put lots of pressure on Carolina's young linebacking corps early last season. More importantly for Clowney, the experienced Lawing might have been more successful in stabilizing Clowney during the chaotic buildup to the 2013 season, in which Clowney was so hyped that he was bound to fail to live up to the predictions.
3. "Versatile -- lines up everywhere along the line and can win with strength, power, quickness and speed."
Some negative assessments of Clowney have noted that typically, tall, fast defensive ends aren't as successful in the NFL as stocky, powerful ends, but what makes Clowney such an amazing prospect is that while he has unnatural length and speed for an end, he also has no shortage of power. He's not built quite as big as stockier NFL ends like his potential teammate J.J. Watts, but Clowney has more than enough power to be a star in the NFL, which is one reason he has been used in many spots on the line.
4. "Plays in spurts and is too much of a flash player -- does not consistently dominate like he could."
My view on this issue is that it's not that Clowney wouldn't put forth a whole game of effort so much as it is that he sometimes seemed disinterested against lower-tier opponents. Clowney always saved his best performances for games against Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson. He seemed to thrive off of the opportunity to line up opposite star tackles such as Tennessee's Tiny Richardson. On the other hand, he oftentimes seemed less interested against less glamorous opponents. One was often left to wonder how he could dominate NFL-prospect tackles one week and then get less production against clearly overmatched players the next. The good news is that it's unlikely Clowney will find NFL competition so uninspiring.
5. "Has a tendency to play tall."
Fair criticism. Clowney occasionally committed facemasking penalties because he tackled too high instead of going low. One of those was in the aforementioned Tennessee game this past season, and since that penalty led to a touchdown when Tennessee was likely heading towards kicking a field goal prior to the penalty, it was indeed a costly penalty. Clowney will need to learn to tackle lower in the NFL.