University of South Carolina Gamecocks
Rock Hill, South Carolina
South Pointe High School
Perhaps no player was put under the microscope more last season than Clowney. Many fans were expecting monumental sack figures after the junior had set the school season record with 13 quarterback drops as a sophomore, but nagging injuries had the Gamecock spend more time in the trainer's room than on the practice field in 2013.
There is no question that Clowney has immense athletic ability, which was on full display during his highly impressive performance at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. With all NFL decision makers watching, Clowney ran a scorching 4.53-second 40-yard dash, the best for all down linemen at the 2014 event and the fifth-best for any player at his position during the last decade of combines.
Clowney then measured in with a 37 1/2-inch vertical jump, second-best for the 2014 down linemen and ranking 15th for the last decade at his position. His 10'-4" broad jump was also second for the 2014 defensive line and 10th overall dating back to the 2005 Combine.
THE INSIDE SCOOP ON CLOWNEY
Clowney is not only fast, but also stronger than his lean frame indicates. He can split the double team and fly through the gaps in an instant, doing a nice job with his long arms to keep blockers from attacking his feet. He plays with leverage and simply powers through the reach blocks. His ability to collapse the pocket is one of his better traits, but he creates huge mismatches, as he is versatile enough to be constantly moved along the line to create favorable match-ups.
The Rock Hill, S.C., native attended South Pointe High School, where he started for the Stallions as a 6-foot-3, 200-pound freshman, lining up at running back and defensive end. For his sophomore year he joined rising seniors Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman on a South Pointe varsity that came off a 9–4 season.
By his junior season spring practice, Clowney became a permanent fixture at defensive end. "We knew we had something special. He was 13 years old in that big athletic body. He was wreaking havoc on our offense that spring and fall," said Bobby Carroll, his coach at South Pointe.
The team went 15–0 for the season, including a 35-14 win over town-rival Northwestern High at Memorial Stadium, Clemson, for the 2008 South Carolina AAAA Division II title and a third spot in the annual MaxPreps high school ranking. Despite playing nearly the entire season with a bone spur in his foot, Clowney finished with 17 sacks. He elected to have surgery on the bone spur in January 2009.
South Pointe lost 31 seniors after the 2008 season, including Gilmore and Holloman. Still, Clowney helped the team to a 10-4 record for the season and a state semifinal berth, where the Stallions lost to Northwestern. He finished the season with 144 tackles and 23 sacks.
For his senior season, Clowney tallied 162 tackles, 29.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries, and scored five touchdowns on defense while leading his team to a 13-2 record. He also rushed 32 times for 277 yards and nine touchdowns in spot duty as a running back.
The Stallions made the state finals for the second time in three years but lost 27-23 to Myrtle Beach at USC's Williams-Brice Stadium. Still, Clowney was named South Carolina's 2010 Mr. Football. South Pointe was 38-6 during his three varsity seasons.
Immediately following his senior season, Clowney went to Spartanburg for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, where he registered five tackles, three sacks for a loss of 15 yards, two tackles for a loss of 17 yards and two quarterback hurries. Clowney was lined up vs. the North Carolina left tackle on every snap he played and drew five holding calls.
After the Shrine Bowl, Clowney headed to Orlando, Fla., for a week of Under Armour All-America Game practices and then the all-star game itself. He was the leading tackler for the Red with seven and had 1.5 sacks. Recruiting analysts were particularly interested in his matchup with Cyrus Kouandjio, who would later capture two national titles as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.
Clowney was named the consensus best player in the nation and named USA Today's National Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named "Mr. Football" in the state of South Carolina as a senior. He also earned a spot on the Parade All-American and received a five-star prospect ranking from Scout.com. He also lettered for the school's basketball team.
In a live broadcast on ESPN on his 18th birthday - Feb. 14, 2011 - Clowney announced his commitment to South Carolina, selecting the Gamecocks over Clemson, Alabama, Louisiana State and Florida State. He became the third-straight South Carolina "Mr. Football" to sign with the Gamecocks, following in the footsteps of his South Pointe teammate Gilmore,and Duncan Byrnes' Marcus Lattimore.
"I wanted to play in the SEC. It was easy," Clowney said. "I knew a week ago. I just tried not to tell anybody." Just days earlier, a story in the New York Times questioned Clowney's academic eligibility, but Clowney told reporters he had "no concerns and would be fine".
Despite numerous scholarship offers, Clowney decided to attend the University of South Carolina. He would become the third-straight South Carolina "Mr. Football" to sign with the Gamecocks, following in the footsteps of Gilmore and Lattimore.
As a true freshman at South Carolina, Clowney played in all twelve games and started the season opener vs. East Carolina, becoming the first freshman to start on the defensive line since Travian Robertson in 2007. In his debut, Clowney had seven tackles, a pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
Clowney spent the rest of the season playing behind All-SEC Melvin Ingram, recording 36 tackles while finishing second on the team with eight sacks and twelve stops-for-loss, adding six pressures while tying for tenth in the nation with a team-high five forced fumbles.
In his sophomore season, Clowney emerged as one of the elite defensive players in college football. While helping South Carolina to an 11-2 record, he set the school single-season record for sacks (13.0) and tackles for loss (23.5). He also amassed 54 tackles (40 solo) and three forced fumbles. Along with being a unanimous All-American, he won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's best defensive end.
Additionally, Clowney was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award, and finished sixth overall in the 2012 Heisman Trophy voting. Following his incredible sophomore season, he was voted by the fans as the 2012 AT&T All-America Player of the Year.
One game that truly defined his awesome athletic ability came in a 27-17 win over Clemson, as Clowney sacked Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd for a single-game school record 4.5 times, earning SEC Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Week honors. It was also a Clemson Memorial Stadium record, topping the previous mark jointly held by Notre Dame's Ross Browner (1977) and Virginia Tech's Bruce Smith (1984), both College Football Hall of Famers.
In the 2013 Outback Bowl, Clowney helped the Gamecocks to a 33-28 victory over the Michigan Wolverines. He gained instant fame for a hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith that came with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, after a controversial call in Michigan's favor. The hit forced a fumble that Clowney himself recovered, which then set up a touchdown on the next play. Clowney won the 2013 ESPY Award for best play for that hit.
Following much offseason hype, Clowney began his junior season as a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. In the season-opener vs. North Carolina, the junior was weakened by gastroenteritis, and appeared tired, as he only registered three tackles. After a slow start into the season, while being plagued by minor injuries, Clowney's Heisman chances began to fade.
His decision to sit out the Kentucky game with a muscle strain near his rib area caused media controversy. In a much anticipated rematch with Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson, Clowney recorded a season-high five tackles, including four solo, in an overall performance that was widely praised. He sat out another game, vs. Coastal Carolina, ailing with bone spurs in his right foot.
Clowney finished his junior season with 35 tackles, 10.5 for a loss of yardage, and three quarterback sacks, considerably lower in each category compared to his sophomore year. Nonetheless, he was again named a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection.
After receiving unanimous All-American honors in 2012, he was only selected to one 2013 All-American team - by the American Football Coaches Association. After South Carolina's 34-24 win over Wisconsin, in which Clowney had five tackles including one for a loss, he announced that he was going to skip his senior year.
Clowney started 23-of-36 games at South Carolina, recording 130 tackles (85 solos) that included 24.0 sacks for minus 148 yards, 47.0 stops for losses of 221 yards and 20 quarterback pressures…Recovered one fumble, caused nine others and deflected seven passes.