Jadeveon Clowney a Heisman Trophy contender?

South Carolina's sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney came to Columbia with a lot of expectations. His first year seemed to live up to the hype. He's expected to make the leap in his second season. But can he win the Heisman Trophy?

ESPN.com seems to think Jadeveon Clowney is Heisman Trophy material. The star defensive end from Rock Hill, South Carolina is listed as one of the vote-getters in their ESPN Experts' Poll for the Heisman Trophy.

Clowney entered South Carolina as the number one recruit in the nation with a highlight-reel that was filled with exceptional clips of Clowney making play after play. People expected that translate over the college level right away and it did.

He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches and was also a second team All-SEC member. Several different outlets listed him as a member of the All-Freshman team.

All Clowney did was have 36 tackles, 8.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss. He was the only freshman in the Top 10 in sacks in the SEC and was tied for eight in the country with five forced fumbles. Throw in six quarterback hurries and you have yourself quite a season.

The funny thing is...Clowney had a limited knowledge of the playbook. All those accolades and statistics happened based on sheer athleticism alone. It also happened in the best football conference in America.

This guy is good.

So when you give a talented player like Clowney an extra year of preparation and understanding of the playbook along with more muscle added to his 6-foot-6, 256-pound frame, you've got the potential for a superstar and a great season.

The question is, though, will this enable him to compete for the Heisman Trophy?

It's extremely rare that a defensive player wins the Heisman Trophy. According to the Heisman.com, there are only three defensive players who have won college football's most coveted trophy: Larry Kelley in 1936, Leon Hart in 1949 and Charles Woodson in 1997. The main reason these players won the Heisman was because of their versatility. All three saw time on both sides of the ball, increasing their opportunities for visibility for the Heisman votes.

What does this mean for Clowney?

Unless the Gamecocks have an offensive package in place for the star sophomore defensive end, then he'll likely be left out of the Heisman Trophy conversation. The odds are stacked against him in winning the trophy but that doesn't mean he won't play a significant role for South Carolina.

With Melvin Ingram gone, the Gamecocks plan to use Clowney in a variety of roles that will allow him to do what he does best: rush the quarterback. He should see time at defensive end, defensive tackle and even at linebacker. Giving him more opportunities to rush the quarterback will enable Clowney to improve on his 2011 totals and should find him among the country's elite on the defensive side of the football.

Is it possible for Clowney to win the Heisman? Anything's possible. It just seems unlikely that he'll get the chance to win the trophy this year.

But that's okay. Clowney can settle for a championship trophy or two this season and be perfectly satisfied.

He'll worry about the Heisman next year.

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