Bowers: No more short cuts
CLEMSON -- Video is a truth teller. Watching game film of his sophomore and freshman seasons, Da'Quan Bowers agonized over missed sacks and opportunities.
Never again, he vowed.
Never again would he operate at less than 100 percent. Never again did he want to hear about failing to reach his sky-scraping ceiling.
No more selections from McDonald's late-night menu. No more short cuts.
As the defensive end enters his junior year at Clemson, Bowers says he's matured and ready for a breakout season, ready to reach his lofty potential.
"Looking back at last year and at my freshman year, I saw things I could have done and didn't do and I should have done on film," Bowers said. "It was a wakeup call.
"I'm not trying to find the easy way out as much as I used to. … I had a mindset that I didn't want to burn myself out so I'd cut corners and take plays off. The older I get, I realize that's not the way; the best way is to go all out."
The Bamberg native has yet to live up to the lofty rankings that followed him to campus, including being tabbed ESPN's No. 1 overall recruit in 2008.
In 955 career snaps at Clemson, Bowers has four sacks.
By the time Julius Peppers was a junior at North Carolina, he had 21 sacks, including a nation-best 15 as a sophomore. Former Boston College standout Mathias Kiwanuka had 11 1/2 sacks as sophomore.
Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan had more sacks as a sophomore than Bowers has produced in his first two seasons.
Bowers was affected by a knee injury last year as his weight ballooned to 293 pounds prior to the bowl game, robbing him of agility and quickness. While he's developed into a stout run defender, he knows sacks are the home run numbers for defensive ends.
As extra motivation, he's eligible for the 2011 NFL draft, and some analysts are projecting him as a first-round pick.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele compared Bowers' ability last year to that of a 19-year-old Reggie White, and Steele remains high on Bowers.
"Da'Quan is one of those guys who has been given a gift," Steele said. "In most cases when he went out and played against somebody he physically was dominant, but he didn't have to be every down because of the ability.
"As he's gone up the food chain, that person lined up against him has become more and more frequently a pretty dominating player themselves. He has to play to his ability. The opponent in front of him is just a silhouette. It doesn't matter if he's an All-American or third-team guy that got thrown in because of injury."
To clear his head, Bowers got away from football after spring practice. Bowers said he did no football activities from April 12 to May 20, aside from getting in better shape. The 6-4 Bowers has dropped his weight to 272 pounds, thanks in part to better eating habits.
Steele maintains Bowers is a hard worker and coachable, and that it's just a maturation process, a matter of finding "the next gear."
It's not too late for Bowers to blossom into a star at Clemson -- just examine two other defensive ends native to South Carolina.
Charleston native Courtney Brown registered 24 1/2 of his 33 career college sacks during his junior and senior years at Penn State.
The late Gaines Adams had his breakout year as a junior at Clemson, recording 9 1/2 sacks.
There's still time for Bowers to match such comparisons, to become an early pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but the clock on opportunity is ticking.
"It's one thing to be talked about on paper," Bowers said. "It's another to prove it, and I haven't done that yet."
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