ROCK HILL | There are several theories about what South Carolina got Monday when Jadeveon Clowney, the nation’s consensus No. 1-ranked recruit, announced he will be a Gamecock.
Clowney has just one — a starter for a USC team that can contend for a national championship.
“As soon as I step in there, I’m going to start,” the 6-foot-6, 252-pound defensive end from South Pointe High School said during his nationally televised announcement at the school. “That’s how I feel.”
Many observers agree.
“There’s no doubt in my mind” Clowney can start, former South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll said.
Carroll coached safety DeVonte Holloman and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who started for the Gamecocks as freshmen. Clowney, though, is on another level, Carroll said.
“He’s a three-(years) and-out guy,” Carroll said. “In 2015, he’ll play on some NFL football team. I’m not sure he’s not better than some of the defensive ends (the Gamecocks) have got now. Come on; 6-6, 252, you run a sub-4.5-(second) 40-(yard dash) and you power-clean 350 pounds, you can play for anybody.
“I have had several NFL guys, former players and coaches, say that he’s like the LeBron James of football. He could probably go out and start in the National Football League straight out of high school. He might not be able to play every down, and he’d have to get a little bigger and stronger, but I really think he could do it.”
Clowney was considered the nation’s No. 1 recruit by Scout.com, Rivals.com and ESPN.com. At the Under Armour All-American game this year, Clowney was “virtually unblockable,” ESPN’s Jamie Newberg said.
“He’s one of the best defensive prospects I’ve ever seen,” Newberg said. “I put him in the same category as John Henderson and Ronald Curry, Randy Moss, Kevin Faulk, all the players that I think were the best I’ve ever seen. He’s certainly up there.”
Keeping Clowney at the state’s flagship school and away from coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban is a public relations coup for the Gamecocks, Newberg said. It also could prove a tipping point on the playing field.
“Oh, it’s going to be big,” Clowney said. “I believe we’re going to pull it off one of these years that I’m there. I hoping for a national championship; that’s what I’m hoping for, starting something new.”
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier echoed that statement Monday afternoon when he and defensive assistant coaches Ellis Johnson, Lorenzo Ward and Brad Lawing held a news conference to discuss Clowney’s signing.
“This was a big day for us,” Spurrier said. “Signing players like Jadeveon ups our expectations, and that’s what we want to do. We want to raise them as high as we can around here and achieve the SEC championship and more in the next few years.”
Spurrier read a newspaper article several weeks ago that stated Clowney could be the best college football prospect in the past 15 years.
“That was sort of scary reading that we were going to sign a player of that caliber,” he said.
Clowney called South Carolina assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson after his morning announcement.
“He didn’t say, ‘Were you watching?’” Johnson said. “He just said, ‘Coach, I’m going to be ready.’ That’s what’s in his heart and his mind right now.”
Video: Clowney picks USC
Video: Clowney comments on his decision