THE SPOTLIGHT, naturally, was on Jadeveon Clowney, as it should have been. As dominant a player as he can be, and with ESPN (the network that replayed “The Hit” so many times that Vincent Smith is still feeling shockwaves) broadcasting, he was going to be dissected on every play.
He was. Wrongly.
ESPN apparently had quite the time questioning Clowney’s effort and intensity during the game, not taking into account the factors of the game. On a hot and humid evening, against an up-tempo offense, any defensive lineman likely would be breathing hard, placing his hands on his knees, etc.
But because it was Clowney, Superman, he was termed, “gassed.”
There’s no question that Clowney didn’t have the numbers that many over-zealous folks thought he would have. He finished with three tackles, none for loss. The one sack he was in on was credited to Gerald Dixon Jr. and he just missed another at the end of the game.
It was the product of the weather and the offense he was facing (and, Clowney said, a stomach virus that hit him last night). Bryn Renner doesn’t stand in the pocket and wait for anyone to hit him, much less a potential No. 1 NFL pick. The Tar Heels’ game is quick-strike, side-to-side, mixed with a heavy run (that got heavier against USC). That’s what they ran, and there was nothing Clowney could do to stop it.
But gassed? Out of shape? Please.
He blew up an option play, forcing a pitch, then chased down the pitch man. He switched to left side of the line to go against a lesser offensive tackle, UNC adjusted and ran to the non-Clowney side, and he still ran across the field and ended up just shy of the tackle. I’d love to be that “gassed” and non-conditioned.
Speaking to David Pollack at SEC Media Days, he said that having maximum effort on every play has to start in practice. He would know — the guy was one of the greatest ends to play in the SEC.
Yet, Pollack also admitted that he never had Clowney’s talent. Never could hope to have it. Pollack had to practice every down like it was his last because that’s the only way he was going to make it.
Clowney doesn’t have to. And knows it.
He didn’t have the numbers, big deal. He played a solid game. Even if TV announcers couldn’t see what was happening on TV or on the field in front of them.
Clowney laughed off Pollack’s comments. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Did you see the score? As long as we’re winning, I could care less.”