We’re All Along for the Ride
By Zach Besaw
He is a freak. We knew that before the combine, before he posted a 4.53 second 40 yard dash time. Before he showed off his vertical leap of 37.5 inches, and his broad jump of 10’4”. We knew it before his hit on Vincent Smith. We know he is 6’6” and 266 pounds. We know all these things about Jadeveon Clowney, what frustrates us is what we do not know.
I watched the hit live. When Clowney cut through the offensive line like a knife through butter and delivered the biggest hit of the college football season. It simultaneously knocked the ball out of Vincent Smith’s hand and the helmet off of his head. Clowney saw the ball and immediately tried to pick it up and run. It was a breathtaking show of power and speed, and it displayed the convergence of every raw ability that have had scouts drooling over him since high school. It was also the worst possible thing for Clowney.
If that hit had occurred at the end of his junior year we would be talking about how the Texans would be crazy to pass on such a freak. Instead it was the exclamation point on his outstanding sophomore season, one in which he had 13 sacks. If the hit had happened at the end of what many are calling a disappointing junior season, Clowney’s stock would have soared as high as ever. Scouts would have used it as proof of his lack of luck this past season. Instead, we as fans tend to look at the numbers. ESPN has a show titled “Numbers Never Lie” but in this case I am afraid they do. If you have watched the games instead of just the highlights you would have seen Clowney fighting off double and triple teams every play. He was the main subject of every offensive coordinator’s game plan. These coordinators made it very clear that they would not allow Clowney to beat them.
Hordes of people are lining up to criticize Clowney. They ask questions like “if he is such a freak why can he not beat these double teams?” The simple answer is this: you have to remember the players across the line of scrimmage are getting a scholarship too. These are not nobodies. Having to handle two offensive linemen whose sole goal is to beat you is tough for anyone. So I do not question Clowney’s ability, however his love of the game is another matter.
Twice he was caught going over 110 miles per hour. He has a reckless love of speed, one which many feel could derail his career. He also has had his motivation questioned. Scouts question his will to dominate. I draw a comparison between Clowney and Kansas’ heralded swingman Andrew Wiggins. Both were labeled as the next big thing, both have disappointed scouts because they have not yet displayed that ability, both have had their love of the game questioned, and both have not met expectations even though they have been spectacular in their own right. It is time that we as fans stop trying to find the next Lawrence Taylor and Michael Jordan and learn to appreciate the young stars that want to be their own person. Is their drive concerning? Maybe to some, but they have been dissected their entire career, and eventually it gets old even to college students.
Clowney is a real possibility for the number one pick. He has the ability to be the next Bruce Smith, but he reminds me much more of Julius Peppers. He is a long, athletic, physical freak of nature just as Peppers was. If his ceiling is the all time sack leader and his best comparison is a six time All-Pro then I think Clowney will be just fine in the league. He is gearing up to his the league at 110 miles an hour, and we should all be enjoying the ride.