Gators preparing for Clowney

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has the talent to change games. The Gators have seen it on film—his freakish athleticism flying off the edge to hit the quarterback. The sophomore has 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for a loss this season while also playing well in the run game. He can change the game with one play, but the Gators won't change what they do. They'll go right at him.

"They can chase you down and then when you go away from them, they get to freelance a little bit and maybe overplay the ball and just get there," Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "Usually those guys from the backside have more of a tendency to strip the ball."

Some players with the freakish athleticism don't put in the effort on the field, but that's not Clowney. Even if a run play goes away from him, he's going after it. That effort is why he's in the backfield during what seems like every pass play. He's deadly swim move can get him to the quarterback at will.

He's got the strength to go through a player or the speed to go around them, but the Gators won't try to stay away from him. For the offensive to be successful, they have to keep him honest and run the ball at him.

"Our o-line has done a great job through this six weeks, six-seven weeks, "Florida receiver Frankie Hammond said. "It's just about going at him. You don't want to shy away from him. We want the competition. So we're going to go. He's going to get his plays, and we're just going to try to slow him down."

Clowney is tied for third on the South Carolina team with 31 tackles this season, but even when he's not making a tackle, his presence on the line can make an impact. He's never in the same spot. The Gamecocks shift him around the defense to create confusion and never allow the offense to plan for where he will come from.

That's part of the challenge. The Gators want to know where Clowney is at all times. It's just tough to make that happen until the quarterback gets set under center.

"You need to account for him," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "He can ruin your day. You've got to be able to account for him in the rush and in the run game. You've got to have your antenna up to know where he is."

The athleticism is hard to miss on film. Florida players and coaches have talked all week about seeing his highlights—jumping over a blocker going for his legs or using his speed to breeze past an offensive tackle.

Former NFL defensive line coach and current Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was once involved in drafting college players to the next level, and Jadeveon Clowney lived up to the hype on film.

"As pass rushers, a lot of times what you're looking for is speed and length," Quinn said. "He certainly has those attributes. That's what jumps out to me as a pass rusher, when you see a guy who's got quickness and length, not just in terms of beating a tackle around the corner, but you have the length to knock a pass down or you're in the quarterback's face in a little different way. As an outside rusher, he does a really good job and we've certainly noticed."

The challenge is for the offensive line. It was a banged up unit as the Gators made the trip to play at Vanderbilt last weekend, ending the game without three starters—center Jonotthan Harrison (arm), left guard James Wilson (eye) and left tackle Xavier Nixon (upper body).

Muschamp has maintained throughout the week that he expects all three starting linemen to return to their jobs on Saturday. If Nixon isn't back, the Gators could have true freshman D.J. Humphries dealing with Clowney.

The accolades have followed Clowney since he was in high school and ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the country. He showed flashes of the dominance as a freshman before putting together a complete season this year.

"It's good to go against a guy who's known as a highly touted defensive lineman and I know, me as a tackle, I want to go against guys that are good," Florida right tackle Chaz Green said. "I'm looking forward to it."

The Gators can't ignore him in the passing game, but quarterback Jeff Driskel admitted earlier this week that some of his problems throwing the ball have come when he gets caught up watching the pass rush. It forces him to tuck the ball and start to run with it before routes are developed fully.

It's part of the reason that the passing game has been slowed, and with Clowney flying off the edge on Saturday afternoon, it won't be any easier.

"If you're a quarterback and you're looking at the rush, you're doing wrong," Jeff Driskel said. "You've just got to trust that the line and the backs are going to be able to pick up the blitz and the rush."

There's no doubt where the pressure lies in stopping Clowney. It's in a banged up offensive line. The Gators slowed likely first round defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo two weeks ago when LSU came to The Swamp, and they'll be faced with a similar challenge against South Carolina.

"I think it puts a lot more pressure up front," Florida right guard Jon Halaio said. "I know coach Muschamp has emphasized this week to not be matched with your preparation. So basically, be more prepared than the guy across from you. To have a better football team that we're facing this week puts a lot more pressure on us."

Fightin Gators Top Stories