South Carolina’s defensive end Jadeveon Clowney begins the 2013 campaign as one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates.
Clowney is widely revered as college football’s best player by many scouts and analysts. It has even been discussed by many analysts, as the 2013 NFL Draft looms near, that Clowney would have been the number one selection this year if he was eligible, but will definitely be the number one draft pick in 2014, if he forgoes his senior season.
Clowney had 13 sacks (tied for third in NCAA) as well as 23.5 tackles-for-loss (tied for second in NCAA). These numbers, when combined with his dominance at the line and his ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, make Clowney the best player in college football. However, the Heisman Trophy has never been awarded to a defense-only player, and this year will not be the end of that streak, as Clowney can finish no higher than second in the voting.
The over-used cliche is ‘defense wins championships’, yet the Heisman always eludes the defensive stars that bring their team to the cusp of a national title. Ndamukong Suh, in 2009, was highly regarded as not only the best and most-dominant defensive player that year, but also as the best player overall. Suh’s Nebraska Cornhuskers lost to the Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 championship game, and Suh consequently finished third in the Heisman voting.
Manti Te’o, this past season, showed the tenacity and skills of a true defensive captain as he navigated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to an undefeated season. The Irish, behind Te’o, finished seventh in total defense en route to a loss in the National Championship game. Even though his team was undefeated, and he was easily recognizable as the team’s best player, Te’o only finished second in the Heisman voting. It appears that neither individual dominance nor team success can lead to a defensive player winning the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Clowney, as evidenced by Te’o and Suh, will not win the award that is given to the nation’s most-outstanding college football player. The only way Clowney can finish higher than second is if he splits time on offense and puts up solid receiving numbers from the tight end position.
South Carolina, of course, will not use Clowney in the passing game, as he is needed to lead the defense with his furious pass rush. Clowney, therefore, regardless of preseason hype and consensus beliefs, can finish no higher than second when the Heisman is handed out at season’s end. The Gamecocks can go undefeated and win the National Championship while Clowney leads the league in sacks and tackles-for-loss, but the Heisman Trophy will go to best offensive player on a top 10 team.