Jadeveon Clowney Hit: Big Play in Outback Bowl a Sign of Things to Come

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIJanuary 2, 2013

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 08:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks smiles on the way to defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 54-3 during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

NFL quarterbacks are safe for one more year.

Jadeveon Clowney highlighted South Carolina’s Outback Bowl victory with a signature helmet-jarring hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, and put an exclamation mark on every scouting report for the former No. 1 recruit for the next year.

Clowney is a sophomore and is ineligible for the NFL draft for one more season. As long as he can stay healthy, he’ll continue to be in the discussion for the No. 1 selection in 2014.

Clowney is an imposing force with all the physical tools that make an elite pass-rusher. At 6’6”, 256 pounds, he has the frame to add some bulk but enough quickness and explosiveness off the snap to beat most tackles at the college level.

With an eight-sack freshman campaign and a 13-sack sophomore season, Clowney has cemented himself as one of college football’s elite pass-rushers. More impressive than his sack numbers is the way he’s done it.

Clowney has an arsenal of pass-rushing moves, and he’s only going to get better. He suffered from a foot and knee injury in 2012, but he fought to stay on the field and get after opposing quarterbacks. With an offseason to recover and a strong work ethic, there’s no reason to believe Clowney won’t be in the discussion for several more major awards next season.

South Carolina faced some of the toughest competition in the SEC this season, including Georgia, LSU, Florida and Clemson. Against Clemson, Clowney recorded 4.5 sacks and helped propel the Gamecocks to a 27-17 victory to finish the regular season. He has more than a few games like that left in him, too.

What Clowney offers is more than just edge-rushing ability. He’s a physical freak, with all the athleticism of a much smaller player and the strength to hold up with opposing linemen at the line of scrimmage. Even with a skill set so perfectly tailored for an elite pass-rusher, Clowney plays the run as well as anyone on the team.

It may be too early to talk about Clowney’s potential landing spot in the NFL draft. He’s still a year away from being eligible, and Clowney still has another year to prove he can continue to compete at the highest level. Still, his electric playing style and incredibly high motor make Clowney’s future NFL career a fun thought for fans and a terrifying prospect for NFL quarterbacks.