Why he'll definitely contributeClowney's natural ability is through the roof. His first step is incredible and he already has the size to be an immediate contributor. Clowney is a tenacious pass-rusher and while the step up to SEC play is a big one for anyone, his explosion should immediately make him a terror off the edge especially on passing downs. Three-year starter Cliff Matthews graduated leaving an immediate void for a pass-rusher to make a big impact. Clowney's recruitment may have been somewhat of a circus but he's a hard worker with a will to win and should give the Gamecocks defense an immediate playmaker. As a once-in-a-generation type recruit, Clowney isn't the type you wait around to play.
Curb the enthusiasmDespite all of the above, Clowney will still be a freshman and rarely are freshmen dominant on the defensive line. Clowney completely outmatched opponents with his speed, power and tenacity in high school. In college, the speed will still be there, but his opponent many times will be just as powerful and just as tenacious until he has time to develop more in a college weight room. In college, even if Clowney is a dominant pass-rusher, schools will likely run right at him to force him to become a threat against the run too and keep him honest in trying to get in the backfield.
While Matthews has moved on, Melvin Ingram seems to have found a home at defensive end and quietly put together a great season last year with a team-leading 9.0 sacks, tying for the second-highest single season total in school history. He appears to have had a great offseason and will be tough for even Clowney to beat out. No one is going to beat out Devin Taylor on the other end.
Post-spring DE Depth ChartDE
98 Devin Taylor 6-7 260 JR-2L Beaufort, S.C.
92 Byron McKnight 6-5 235 SR-3L Laurinburg, N.C.
6 Melvin Ingram 6-2 276 SR-3L Hamlet, N.C.
90 Chaz Sutton 6-4 250 SO-1L Savannah, Ga.
Quote to note"Jadeveon Clowney, who as we know is not only the top player in our state but considered the top player in the country last year. We're really interested in watching him play this year. He'll be out there early and often, and we think he's going to be a super player and a real good guy for us."
-- Steve Spurrier, SEC Media Days