Outback Bowl 2013: Jadeveon Clowney Could Dominate the NFL Right Now

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 1, 2013

South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina DE Jadeveon ClowneyKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wasn't short on confidence during the down time between the Gamecocks' season-ending victory over Clemson and its bowl game matchup versus Michigan.

The true sophomore from Rock Hill, S.C., who finished sixth in the 2012 voting for the Heisman Trophy, told ESPN.com that his next goal is to become the first exclusively defensive player to win the award, and at the very least, wants to be in New York as a finalist.

Judging from his performance in the Outback Bowl, he might be on to something.

Clowney obliterated Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the backfield with 8:22 to play in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble that he recovered himself. The turnover led to a South Carolina touchdown to give the Gamecocks a 27-22 lead. They'd go on to win 33-28 on a late touchdown pass from Dylan Thompson to Bruce Ellington.

If you didn't know it was possible to have a Heisman moment in a bowl game to close out the previous season before Tuesday, you do now.

Smith never had a chance, as Clowney nearly met him at the point of the handoff. To punctuate matters, his helmet was launched seven yards behind him.

It's one of those plays that will be seen on highlight reels for years to come, and is a perfect example of how fast, physical and dominant Clowney can be.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier commented on Clowney's hit after the game, via Josh Kendall of The State.

Steve Spurrier on Clowney: "No, he doesn’t hit that hard in practice. We have a rule, don’t clobber teammates."

— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 1, 2013

Statistically, his numbers weren't great. Clowney finished the game with four tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. But he's the kind of player that can take over a game from the moment toe meets leather.

Expect him do to more of that in 2013.

ESPN college football analyst Chris Low said in December that Clowney would be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft if he were eligible. You saw why against Michigan.

The 6'6", 256-pounder has the size and the speed to be a force at the next level, and he stands out right now in a conference that is chock-full of future NFL stars.

Sure, he could use a little work stopping the run, but he improved tremendously in that department this season. Making the jump to the increasingly pass-happy NFL should be no problem for Clowney.

Unfortunately for the Kansas City Chiefs, they can't postpone their No. 1 selection in 2013 to 2014. Whichever team is fortunate enough to draft Clowney, it'll be getting an instant-impact player.

If he has more hits like the one on Smith, it may also be getting a Heisman Trophy winner.