New Year's Day, or as I call it, "National Hangover and False Promises to Oneself Day," is known for black eyed peas, hangovers and college football. Today I will join the millions of other Americans around the country who woke up at 11:55 a.m. with red capillaries busting in their eyes, arms wrapped around a trash can, and college football on the television. This year's version features five games that I am watching solely for two players and not for the outcomes. The players? Jadeveon Clowney and Blake Bortles (check back on Monday for my thoughts on Bortles, both of whom are projected to be top five picks. Just like the Teddy Bridgewater article I wrote, this one will be similar, except it will feature the planet-eating, soul-feasting, necklace-made-out of-ears-wearing monster known as "The Clowney," who was the preseason number one pick until Mr. Bridgewater stole the show.
Let's get this road on the show and dive into this Bloomin' Onion known as the Outback Bowl.
The time of day will be in italics. The game clock time will be in bold.
(12:02): Clowney is not even the captain on the coin toss. How can a team use a top five pick on a guy who takes off plays and is not trusted by his coaches to even be a captain? Can't you just see Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith arguing over something as insane as this?
8:05 (12:20): Clowney slants inside and swims over the offensive tackle into the backfield, but the Badgers run the opposite direction. His swim move is astonishing. It's crucial for any type of pass rusher to have some type of curve ball when rushing the passer. If all they can do is bull rush or try to run really fast around an offensive lineman, they will get squared up and stalled by professional football players. Clowney's go to move, just like J.J .Watt, is his swim move.
7:40 (12:21): He takes an outside route on the tight end, but Wisconsin runs inside on a power play.
6:24 (12:23): Wisconsin runs the opposite direction of Jadeveon, but Clowney chases the back down from the opposite hashmark and runs through him with his shoulder. That does not look like a guy who takes plays off.
5:30 (12:24): On most plays, Clowney is in a four point stance (two hands on the ground) rather than a three point stance. I wonder if it is personal preference or if this is the technique the South Carolina coaches prefer. In the NFL, you rarely see four point stances used anywhere other than in short yardage and red zone situations.
5:05 (12:25): Fake FG alert! Wisconsin is the whitest team in the NCAA. It's either because only white people live in Wisconsin or the sun never pays the state visit and the state slowly turns its inhabitants into pale, flaky mounds of cheese guzzling dough.
2:20 (12:34): Clowney still has yet to make any plays other than the tackle he made coming from the backside. However, no one has had their way with him. He is simply taking himself out of the play by the direction he slants and swims. It is either a scheme thing or Jadeveon needs to learn how to recognize plays better.
2:05 (12:35): Extremely quick get-off and he comes unblocked off the edge from the backside to make a tackle for a loss. It is rare to see an unblocked man make a tackle from the backside, and this play is a perfect example of his quickness and get off (how well he explodes off the line of scrimmage). They probably unintentionally left him unblocked because I highly doubt Joel Stave is running the read option.
:55 (12:36): Hahahahahahahaha, my sides are collapsing in like tectonic plates after that pass. The Badgers were running a screen to the back and the quarterback attempted to throw it into the ground, but the ball hits a player's foot and bounces in the air to be intercepted. It was almost as beautiful as the Texans' Week Two, when Randy Bullock was trying to win the game against the Titans in regulation. He was iced on the first try, had the second one blocked, but the Titans were offside, made the third one, but was iced again and then missed the fourth try. I will continue to write about this insane scenario until the end of my time because something this incredible should never be forgotten.
14:10 (12:44): Wisconsin has had success running opposite of Clowney.
13:14 (12:46): Clowney punches and covers the tight end, who runs a delayed out route to the front left corner of the end zone. The problem? He gets beat and the Badgers score. He looked like a baby deer fresh out the womb in coverage. Whoever drafts him should not give him the ol' position change to OLB and force him to play with his hand off the ground. He is classic defensive end and should continue to play as one.
6:43 (1:07): Clowney walks off the field favoring his shoulder following a play where he swims past the tight end and explodes into a double team from a pulling guard and a fullback. He even knocked the helmet off the fullback he drove himself into.
He comes back in after missing one play.
5:00 (1:08): Swims inside on the tackle on the pass rush, but the halfback is there to chip him and stops him from getting to the quarterback.
4:25 (1:09): Slants inside and takes himself out of a play that is run right at him.
4:00 (1:10): Clowney has kung fu fighting hands. On this play, he is double teamed by the tackle and tight end, yet he is able to escape it by using a forceful rip. Wisconsin did pick up thirteen yards on the play because the play was run outside of the tackles. They have had great success running the ball outside against the Gamecocks.
3:35 (1:11): Another tackle made coming from the backside.
Also, I am already ready for Houston to sign Watt's younger brother as an UDFA to play the James Casey role and continue to add to the white H-backs from Wisconsin tradition they have going on.
3:00 (1:11): First example of Clowney taking a play off. I think he is just winded and tired from fighting off double teams, chasing down runs from the backside, and getting chipped on every pass play. His hands were on his hips prior to this. Jadeveon just needs to grab his iPod, put on "Run the Jewels," and go run around in circles in his cul-de-sac more often.
2:35 (1:12): A Badgers pass play, and again Clowney is chipped in the ribs.
1:50 (1:12): Another example of a play where he looks gassed. He did not give real strong effort on this play. Prior to the play beginning, his hands were resting on his hips creating two Isosceles triangles.
:45 (1:11): 4th and 1. Wisconsin goes for it, but they run away from Clowney.
:22 (1:17): Clowney swims inside past the tackle and hits the quarterback. However, the QB throws it away before he gets taken down. His swim move is something to gush about even if he relies on it too much.
:19 (1:18): He has great burst off the edge and beats the tackle with an inside move. He doesn't sack the quarterback because he gets chipped by the running back again. However, he still is able to disrupt the quarterback by jumping over the top of the tackle and forcing him outside the pocket. When he's not gassed, he's relentless.
14:45 (1:44): They finally run right at Clowney, but he takes himself out of the play by taking the outside route into the backfield. He needs to learn how to read the offensive lineman's feet instead of guessing (you can see if the player is pulling, doubling, cutting, etc. just by looking at the lineman's first two steps). I'm not exactly sure, but I am starting to think it is not really a scheme issue. It's his own undoing.
14:11 (1:45): Excellent double team by the tackle and guard (Deuce) and they drive Clowney down the line of scrimmage. It has taken an entire half, but Wisconsin has finally run the ball at Clowney and moved him.
11:04 (1:56): Great punch by Clowney and he drives the tackle into the backfield.
9:25 (1:59): Another excellent double team on this monster.
3:25 (2:14): Perfect example of Wisconsin's game plan against Jadeveon. Their plan was simple: run outside the tackles, run away from him, and hit him with multiple guys as many times as you can. On this play, Clowney gets cut at the line of scrimmage; he gets up to pursue the ball carrier only to get hit by the offensive tackle again.
2:20 (2:14): They try to cut him again this time and he simply leaps over the cut block. He's a freak of nature.
1:10 (2:18): He's nearly impossible to block with one man at the NCAA level. Every time they try he drives the blocker into the backfield. I feel like I'm watching Garrett Graham block whenever someone tries to take him on by themselves.
14:40 (2:23): Jadeveon forces the tackle into the backfield by swimming inside. In doing so, he vacuum-seals the hole shut like a Food Saver. The difference is that this version doesn't give a damn about your broccoli and is in the business of spoiling, not saving.
5:06 (2:56): Bull rushes the tackle backwards and benches him with one arm to separate from the block.
2:05 (3:08): Now we get to see Clowney rush the passer with the Gamecocks up 34 to 24.
-1st down: Simple rip to the outside and the tackle does a great job squaring him up.
-2nd down: Screen.
-1st down: Slashes the blocker's hands off of him, leaps up and bats down the pass.
-2nd down: Nasty shoulder fake inside to get to hit the quarterback.
Clowney is now subbed out and does not play another snap because Wisconsin fumbles the ball on a sweet trick play that fails. They throw a short pass to the slot receiver and the running back comes up behind him and runs a mini-version of the hook and lateral. However, teh running back drops the lateral and South Carolina recovers. Next time you play pickup basketball, run this play for your best shooter on the three point line and you will consistently create wide open three pointers.
I believe it is fairly clear that Clowney is worth a top five pick. He is a dominant defensive end, a freak athlete that can play both the run and pass. He is too strong to move unless he is being double-teamed and his swim move keeps offensive linemen's hands off him, which allows him to pitch a tent and camp out in the back field. In the pass game, he can either bull rush, speed rush, use a variety of shoulder fakes, swim or spin his way past offensive tackles. Every defensive lineman needs some sort of move to rush the passer in the NFL. Clowney has an arsenal larger than Ratchet's. However, out of all of his moves, the swim move is his strongest one.
Despite his abilities, he does have a few flaws. As of right now, teams are worried he is either lazy or injury prone due to his performance this season. I do believe that this "he takes too many plays off" thing is blown out of proportion. When he's fresh, he is a terror and makes tackles eight yards down the field by chasing running backs down from the backside. The problem is that he is does not have the conditioning at the moment to play every down. This could be because of a variety of reasons, including: injuries in the season that caused him to miss practices and decreased his fitness, a lack of not caring about this season because he was already going to be a top five pick, a sole goal of staying healthy this year so he could make millions of dollars next season, or having to fight off multiple double teams throughout the game wears him down as the game progresses. Whatever the reason I don't think it diminishes his draft stock because of the talent he has. His other flaws are that he guesses too much in the run game and takes himself out of plays. He does over rely on the swim move and it might not work in the pros because the competition is tougher. He opens himself up for lineman to get his hands on him, and he does disappear in games at times (this is mostly due to the offense's design).
Overall, I would say Clowney reminds me of Julius Peppers. Additionally, he just seems destined to wear the sliver and black. I believe he will be playing for the circus known as Oakland come September. From a Texans perspective, he is not a talent worth skipping out on Bridgewater for. They should stay the course and take the kid from Louisville.