COLUMBIA — Jadeveon Clowney might be the most recognizable college football player in the land.
South Carolina’s All-American defensive end made ‘The Hit’ heard around the world against Michigan in the Outback Bowl last January. He is widely expected to be the first player selected in next year’s NFL draft, and he’s considered an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
With his bigger-than-life persona and freakish athletic ability, there’s no question the 6-6, 280-pound Clowney casts a large shadow at USC.
And that’s just fine with Chaz Sutton, who is perfectly content being “the other defensive end” for the Gamecocks.
“I don’t worry about being the other guy or the other defensive end because I can only be Chaz Sutton,” he said. “I’m not (Clowney), so I can’t worry about that. I’m out here trying to be the best Chaz Sutton I can be. I’m trying to get better each day and help this team win football games. That’s really my only concern.”
Sutton, a 6-5, 265-pound senior, emerged as a legitimate pass-rushing threat last season in the Gamecocks’ “rabbit” package, which featured four defensive ends in obvious passing situations. Used mainly as a backup behind Devin Taylor, Sutton recorded 25 tackles, including 21 solo stops, seven tackles for loss and five quarterback sacks — a total that was second only to Clowney.
“Chaz showed last year that he can rush the passer,” said USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. “He’s quick, he’s strong and he plays with very good technique and fundamentals. He’s proven he can be a factor in the SEC.”
With Taylor — a fourth-round pick of the Detroit Lions — gone to the NFL, Sutton has become the other starter at defensive end. If there’s any added pressure, Sutton hasn’t shown it outwardly.
“This year is no different than any other year for me,” Sutton said. “I’m trying to make a brand name for myself, no matter who plays on the other side.”
But being the other guy can have its advantages. As teams focus more on stopping Clowney, Sutton is sure to see fewer double-teams.
“I’m sure teams will concentrate on (Clowney), but you can’t count on that as a player,” Sutton said. “I might get single blocking one play and get double-teamed with a guard or a tight end the next play. You have to play every down the same way. “
Ward expects Sutton, one of just five senior scholarship players on this year’s team, to become more of a leader on and off the field for the Gamecocks.
“I expect Chaz to step up this season,” Ward said. “He’s a fifth-year senior that has played a good amount of football for us over the last couple of seasons. He’s got to be more vocal on the field and during practices. He knows all the attention is going to (Clowney), and I think he’s going to show people that he’s worthy of attention as well.”