The Best of the Best: Jadeveon Clowney

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’6″

275 lbs

Career Numbers

90 total tackles

35.5 tackles for a loss

21 sacks

8 forced fumbles

3 passes broken up

We’ve finally made it.  College football is just one day away, which means it’s time for the top player in my Best of the Best.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that the player is South Carolina Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney.  He’s without a doubt the best player in college football, and he may be the best defensive prospect from an NFL standpoint in the last decade.  He’s the closest thing you can get to a “perfect prospect”, being complete in every area of the game.  Even as a 17-year-old Senior in High School Clowney was so good that you could see top pick potential in him.  Now four years later he’s only gotten better, and barring a team needing a Quarterback that bad will almost certainly be the number one overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  So now it’s time to take a look at what makes Clowney THE Best of the Best.

Athleticism

  • Clowney is an incredible athlete, and this shows up in a lot of ways on the field.  He’s a great speed rusher, getting around the edge with ease.  He’s shows good ability to pursue not only sideline to sideline, but also down field.  He even shows the ability to completely embarrass blockers by leaping over them.       Image
  • On this play we’ll see Clowney force the Quarterback to evacuate the pocket.  Image
  • Clowney does a good job getting to the Quarterback in the backfield, but Michigan’s Devin Gardner is athletic enough in his own right to escape Clowney initially and scramble down field.                                 Image
  • Here we’ll see Gardner is in space, and Clowney looks to be having trouble maintaining his balance.  It doesn’t look like Clowney is going to be able to make a play.                                                                                       Image
  • But as the play ends, it’s Clowney that gets down field and is able to bring down Gardner before the damage is even worse.  Gardner was slowed slightly by a couple of Gamecock’s players before Clowney made contact, but it’s still a tremendous individual effort.                             Image
  • On this play we’ll again see good down field pursuit from Clowney as he chases down the ball carrier.                                                     Image
  • Clowney does a good job reading the direction of the play, and disengages quickly in order to pursue the ball carrier.                      Image
  • Clowney shows great athleticism being able to launch himself in a diving tackle attempt, and pull the Running Back down for a moderate gain.  Without Clowney’s play this may have been a significant yardage play.                Image
  • On this play, Clowney shows excellent sideline to sideline ability in pursuit of the highlighted Wide Receiver’s end around.         Image
  • Clowney does an excellent job not biting on the Running Back’s fake, reading the play as an end around from the start.               Image
  • Clowney shows great acceleration closing on the ball carrier, and taking away his angle to the second level.                            Image
  • Even though Clowney doesn’t make the initial stop, he’s right there showing just how fast he can get from one side of the field to the other.          Image
  • Here we’ll see an even better example of Clowney’s down field pursuit against LSU.  As the play begins Clowney runs a stunt, and will pressure the Quarterback.                                                                      Image
  • However LSU has the screen called, and the QB gets the pass to the Running Back who has blockers in front of him.                         Image
  • The back is able to miss a couple of Gamecock defenders miss, but Clowney still hasn’t given up on the play.                          Image
  • The result of the play is a first down, but it would have been an even bigger gain without Clowney’s incredible effort pursuing the screen.

Against Georgia Clowney’s athleticism was on complete display as he leaped over the blockers several time in order to get into the backfield.   ImageImageImage

Pass Rushing

  • Along with athleticism, Clowney is an incredible pass rusher.  He’s got a great stable of pass rushing moves, from a simple speed rush to a devastating bull rush.  He uses these moves along with great leverage to regularly get into the backfield and frustrate Quarterbacks.  Not only does he have a good arsenal of moves, his burst off the line is so good that at times he doesn’t even need them.                                                                                   Image
  • On this first play, we’ll look at a rush where Clowney is so quick out of his stance that he’s able to slip by practically untouched.  He’s going to rush between the Left Tackle and projected top 15 pick in 2014 Taylor Lewan, and the Left Guard. Image
  • Clowney gets a great initial burst off the ball, and is easily able to get between the Tackle and the Guard.  He’s going to use a subtle swim move, but it’s really not necessary with how fast he is.                                Image
  • The Offensive Lineman do eventually get their hands on Clowney, but it’s not before he’s in the Quarterback’s face and causing him to throw ball that a defender is in position to deflect.                                     Image
  • This play is actually a designed run, but it shows Clowney’s excellent swim move.  Once again he’s going to get a great burst off the line.        Image
  • He not only beats Taylor Lewan off the snap, but makes things worse by using a great swim move to get around the outside of Lewan.  This makes it impossible for Lewan to block him without grabbing the jersey and being called for a foul.  Image
  • Here’s a better look at the swim.  Clowney is able to bring his arm up and over Lewan’s inside shoulder.  With the leverage he can turn Lewan, and slide by the outside putting Lewan completely behind him.                 Image
  • Clowney now has a free lane to the ball carrier Denard Robinson and he’s easily able to finish the play off in the backfield with a big hit.          Image
  • Clowney doesn’t just use the swim to beat a man to the outside though.  He’s got a devastating inside swim move.  He’s so quick, and so powerful with it that it just leaves Offensive Tackles looking silly.                 Image
  • Here we see how easily Clowney beats Offensive Tackle Xavier Nixon off the snap.  Notice the separation Clowney already has.            Image
  • Another look shows us how lethal this pass rush move is.  Nixon is left helpless to the inside swim, and looks like he has no clue where Clowney went.Image
  • On this next play, we’ll see Clowney overpower Lewan with a powerful bull rush.  Clowney will get leverage off the snap, and be able to drive Lewan straight back into the Quarterback.                                                     Image
  • Clowney fires off the snap and immediately wins the leverage battle.  Notice how Lewan’s body is almost completely vertical, and Clowney has an arched back and his momentum is moving forward.  This creates large amounts of leverage, and allows Clowney to drive Lewan straight back.       Image
  • In order to try and stop Clowney’s rush, Lewan is forced to hold him.       Image
  • Even with the hold Clowney is able to drive Lewan straight back into the QB and force Gardner to make a hurried throw.                          Image
  • On this last rush, we’ll see Clowney use nothing but speed to get to the Quarterback and bring him down.  Clowney get’s a great burst off the line, and the Left Tackle is already in a bad spot being asked to kick out and mirror his athleticism with his feet.                                          Image
  • The Left Tackle does a pretty good job getting in front of Clowney, but his foot speed isn’t quick enough to take away the edge from the South Carolina End.  Image
  • The Running Back doesn’t do a good job chipping Clowney as he’s coming out of the backfield, and Clowney is easily able to get around the edge of the Left Tackle.                                                                                  Image
  • Once he’s around the edge the only thing left to do is finish the play with a sack, which Clowney does with ease.

Run Support

  • Clowney isn’t just a one trick pony though.  Along with excelling as a pass rusher, he’s also a very good run defender.  As already mentioned he pursues the entire field well, he’s good at sealing the edge, and he’s a strong tackler.   Image
  • On this play we’ll see Clowney seal the edge against Kentucky, and not allow the Running Back to get to the sideline.                Image
  • Once again Clowney explodes off the line, and gains the leverage advantage against the Left Tackle.  He recognizes early that the play is a pitch to the left side of the field, and begins sliding the Tackle laterally.           Image
  • With the leverage advantage he’s able to continue sliding the LT laterally, keeping himself in between the Running Back and his lane to the edge of the field.     Image
  • This forces the RB to cut back inside, where he and his teammates are there to clean up.                                            Image
  • Here we’ll see Clowney overpower a blocker to make the tackle in the backfield.  Clowney again gets an explosive burst off the snap.  He’s given a free release which allows him to build up speed.  This is going to create an extremely tough matchup for the Right Guard who is pulling to block him.             Image
  • The Guard makes contact, but Clowney is able to pretty easily overpower him on the play.                                                Image
  • Another look at the play shows us how Clowney does it.  With nothing but speed Clowney crashes into the pulling Guard.  Clowney’s forward momentum is so powerful it shocks the blocker and jolts him backwards.  This creates balance issues, and he’s able to run through the blocking attempt despite the Guard doing his best to hold Clowney.                                 Image
  • Clowney is able to easily clean up the play in the backfield.

Play Maker

  • The last thing I want to touch on, is Clowney’s ability to make big plays.  Whether it’s a critical sack, and forced fumble, or knocking the pass down, Clowney always seems to be able to make a big play when his team needs it.   Image
  • Here we’ll see Clowney’s ability to force the QB to throw the ball long before he’s ready.  Notice how well Clowney has jumped the snap.  He’s already well into his first step as the same time as the ball is being snapped.       Image
  • Clowney is easily able to beat the Left Tackle around the edge, and get pressure on the QB.  This forces the QB to to throw the ball well before he’s ready, and without his feet set.                                                        Image
  • The results are disastrous.  The ball his the Right Guard in the back and bounces in the air.  The South Carolina Defensive Tackle will intercept the ball inside the 20 yard line.  In a game where Kentucky was down by 11 with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter this effectively ended the game.  Image
  • The best example of his play making ability came in the form of a bone jarring tackle against an unfortunate Michigan Running Back, in a play that is simply known as “The Hit” among college football fans.  After a controversial call against the Gamecocks, Clowney comes off the edge unblocked due to a missed assignment and unloads on the back, jarring his helmet, the football, and perhaps even his body loose in the process.  For those that need a refresher, just want to see it again, or were living under a rock during the last nine months here’s the clip.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC44nP7ClxM

Needs Work

Anything I put here will be nitpicking at best.  Clowney does practically everything better than anyone else in the nation at his position.  However there is one area of his game I would like to see him get better in as the 2013 season plays out.

Tackling In Space

  • If I had to pick out one area where Clowney could get better it would be finishing tackles in space.  As I said before this is a bit of nitpicking because he even has times where he looks very good in space.  However there are plays where it looks like Clowney has a ball carrier dead to rights, only to have an awkward looking tackle attempt be unsuccessful.  Here’s several attempts from the same game against Florida.                            ImageImageImage

Final Thoughts

Clowney is the closest thing to a complete football player you can get going into the NFL Draft.  He’s an incredible athlete, with great size and length.  He has an explosive first step that at times, makes his pass rush moves unnecessary.  When he does have to use rush moves though, he’s not lacking at all.  He’s got a great speed rush, timing the snap well and exploding around the Tackle with great hip flexibility and bend.  He routinely plays with great leverage, allowing his powerful bull rush to be effective at pushing Tackles back into the QB and collapsing the pocket.  Without a doubt the best move he has is his swim move.  He has the ability to swim both inside and outside of the tackle, something no other pass rusher shows on a regular basis.  His outside swim move is extremely effective, turning the Tackle and leaving them forced to hold or let him go by.  Even as effective as his outside swim is, his inside move is that much better.  His inside swim move is absolutely devastating, leaving Tackles looking lost and completely helpless as he gets into the backfield with ease.

Clowney is also a very skilled Defensive End in run support.  He pursues plays exceptionally well, being able to chase ball carriers sideline to sideline, and showing the ability to run them down from behind.  He seals the edge well, forcing ball carriers back inside where he and his teammates are waiting to clean up.  He also uses great power to overpower blockers into the backfield, and is able to work through the trash at the line of scrimmage with great feet.  He’s a play maker in every sense of the word, coming up with the big sack, tipped pass, or forced fumble when his team needs it most.  He also creates plays for teammates, by pressuring the QB and forcing early throws.   Nitpicking a bit, I would like to see him finish tackles in space at a more consistent rate.  Also, his spin move isn’t as strong as his other rush moves, however he uses it far too often in my opinion.  Going forward, Clowney is without a doubt the best player in college football, and will almost certainly be the top player on NFL teams Draft boards.  His skill set will be intriguing to any team, and he has the ability to be a difference maker at the position, in the mold of players like Julius Peppers and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my Best of the Best series.  Please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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