Rotoworld.com NFL Draft writer Josh Norris (@JoshNorris on Twitter) joined us talk South Carolina-Missouri this week. Among other things, we look back on Jadeveon Clowney’s matchup with Tiny Richardson, what makes Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam so dangerous and why the Tigers’ group of towering wide receivers could be trouble for the Gamecocks.
The State: South Carolina lost its game last week against Tennessee, but it looked like Jadeveon Clowney won his matchup with Tiny Richardson. What do you think?
Josh Norris: Absolutely. I feel like I am Clowney’s No. 1 fan on Twitter because every single week I try to talk about him in a positive light, and up until this week it was easy to cite that lack of production, a statistical lack of production. (I kept hearing) he’s regressing as a player, and obviously we saw against Antonio Richardson, he’s not. I think he’s really been playing to that level all season. It’s just that they ran his way, and he made them pay for it. They game-planned him very differently than other teams. They left single tight end blocks on him frequently, which is a no-no. They weren’t afraid to run to his side. They threw typical dropback passes, and he made them pay. Antonio Richardson is a very good blocker, and Clowney destroyed him. It’s fun to watch his swim move in action. I do think people are going to criticize how often he uses his swim move. Expect to hear that during the draft process. Two things on that. One, J.J. Watt uses it all the time in the NFL and he’s pretty good. Two, I think (Clowney) uses it more in college now because the shortest distance between two points is straight line right? I think we won’t see him rely on that so much as a crutch (in the NFL) but man he’s really good at it.
The State: I was surprised how many times Tennessee tried to pull a blocker to him. He’s just way too quick for that.
Josh Norris: It seemed like he was on the field so much more in this game, too. He really didn’t come off as much.
The State: Now Missouri doesn’t have a Jadeveon Clowney, but they’ve got some pretty good defensive ends. What can you tell us about those guys?
Josh Norris: We talked about the Arkansas defensive ends before who were leading the nation in sacks, and now it seems like it’s these Missouri guys. They have one in Kony Ealy, he’s kind of a bigger body, bigger frame. And then they have Michael Sam, who is a redshirt senior who is 6-2, 255 pounds. I think he is going to draw some comparisons to a Charles Johnson who played at Georgia, maybe even Elvis Dumervil. I don’t think he has quite the same explosion that Dumervil had, but I love that he uses leverage to his advantage. The stout, compact rushers don’t have to bend as much to get under an offensive tackles’ pads. Now we see offensive tackles, what 6-5 is the minimum, so a 6-2 player can use a rip move around the edge. It’s no doubt that Sam is a better player than Ealy right now. I think there are going to be lot of people who say Sam has a limited upside, and there might not be as much of an athletic ceiling there. I am also a little worried that Sam might be considered a little bit of a one-year wonder. I won’t go a rant about one-year wonders, but I don’t think it should be seen as a negative term. It’s certainly a lot better than staying average your college career. Sure you’d love to see it as a freshman like Clowney, but some of these players do become players as redshirt seniors because they have learned, they have progressed. I think Michael Sam is probably someone who has improved his evaluation probably more than anyone in the country so far.
The State: Anybody else?
Josh Norris: These three Missouri wide receivers are really impressive. Winning at the catch point in contested situations might be more important than quickness and acceleration. We have heard all about 40 times and 3-cone drills and shuttles. Explosion getting in and out of your breaks has been really valuable to receivers during the draft process, but where the NFL is headed now rules favor receivers that can win with corners blanketing them. Because either the corner is going to have to draw an illegal contact penalty or holding or pass interference. Missouri has three massive receivers, 6-4 or taller (6-6 Dorial Green-Beckham, 6-5 Marcus Lucas and 6-4 LaDamian Washington) so just throwing it up and letting them go get it is a matchup nightmare for these smaller corners. They have three of these guys who are massive, massive targets so it’s going to be interesting to see if these corners at the collegiate level take advantage of easier rules that allow them to contact receivers beyond 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.