SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Jadeveon Clowney might be Spurrier's best player, ever
CLEMSON — Finally, irresistible force Jadeveon Clowney was surrounded Saturday night by immovable objects. South Carolina students that jumped onto the field at Death Valley to celebrate the Gamecocks' 27-17 victory at Clemson wouldn't let the 6-6, 256-pound sophomore get to the locker room without hundreds of pats on the back of his No. 7 jersey.
Clowney won't win the Heisman Trophy, won't even get enough votes for a finalist's trip to New York City. The national media has anointed Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o as the unofficial Designated Heisman Defense Guy. Fine, he's deserving. Notre Dame-Southern Cal crushed South Carolina-Clemson in the ratings Saturday night.
But Clowney is as valuable, more draftable and might be the best college player Steve Spurrier has ever coached.
The disruptive force from Rock Hill knows how to win — 4˝ sacks against the Tigers — and knows what to say.
“I don't know how it feels losing to Clemson and I'm not going to know how it feels,” Clowney said. “Because we ain't losing to them as long as I'm here.”
The tenure lasts one more year, and it would be less if the NFL adopted The Clowney Rule: immediate draft eligibility for pass rushers that college players cannot block.
South Carolina does not keep single-game sack records but Clowney at Clemson established a new season mark with 13. Credit the Clemson sports information staff for this one: Clowney broke the Death Valley sack record of four previously held by Notre Dame's Ross Browner (1977) and Virginia Tech's Bruce Smith (1984).
Clowney's biggest play — the game-changer — wasn't a sack. He blasted quarterback Tajh Boyd upon release of a pass safety Brison Williams intercepted early in the fourth quarter.
The Gamecocks set off on the 13-play, 7:39 drive that produced a 27-17 lead.
“Their ability to put pressure on Tajh was the key,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Simple as this: Clowney in orange Saturday night, and the Tigers win.
That South Carolina wins these rivalry games with bigger, faster linemen is the old Clemson way. The Tigers continue to recruit exceptionally well but no program in the country has a commitment from the next J.D. Clowney, a once-a-decade player.
Better than that if you're Spurrier.
The Head Ball Coach has had a nice talent streak at South Carolina, including Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery and Melvin Ingram. If Clowney has several games next year similar to Saturday night's performance, he's tops.
“That guy, he's just a freak,” Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson said. “There's nobody you can use to simulate him in practice if you're the other team.”
Danny Wuerffel won the Heisman Trophy playing for Spurrier's national championship team at Florida. No need to knock that, but Wuerffel individually was not as talented as Clowney, who projects as a much better pro.
Spurrier at Florida in the mid-1990s had the defensive line tandem of Kevin Carter and Ellis Johnson, both first-round draft picks.
I don't remember either one messing up offenses as much as Clowney.
Gator wideouts Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony also were first-round picks.
I'd take Clowney.
Fred Taylor. Durable ballcarrier, Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick, longtime NFL star.
College teams didn't game-plan around him.
Only one Florida player truly compares.
Yeah, Jevon “The Freak” Kearse was pretty good: All-American in 1998, twice All-SEC, 73 career sacks in the NFL.
The only Clowney weakness is consistency, as South Carolina defensive coordinator Whammy Ward has mentioned a few times.
Ward tried to trick Clowney into a monster effort at Clemson, telling him Ingram once sacked Boyd six times. Of course, Ingram, now with the San Diego Chargers, did no such thing.
“Yeah, I knew that,” Clowney told Ward after the game.
Now everyone knows about the 4˝ sacks.
Has Spurrier ever had a player draw quadruple-team attention?
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff