South Carolina Gamecocks defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles will forego his senior season to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, his father told gogamecocks.com. That means he could join his teammate, junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as a first round pick next May.
Buddy Quarles said the decision came after his son and the coaching staff discussed the issue and decided this would be the best course of action. “I think they all came to that conclusion,” Quarles said of the discussion. “They had a good assumption that he’s going to be leaving.”
And why shouldn’t he leave? There’s a good chance he will be selected very high in the draft, but perhaps not as high as the monster lining up next to him.
It would be foolish to say Quarles hasn’t benefited from Clowney’s presence, as No. 7 draws regular double teams, allowing others along the defensive front to get more one-on-one opportunities. In any case, he’s made the best of those opportunities.
At 6-foot-4, 298-pounds Quarles has arguably been the most productive defensive tackle in the SEC this season. He has seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss so far, both of which are best on the team. Entering the season Clowney was expected to set the pace in those statistical categories. Instead, Quarles has flourished while Clowney has either failed to produce or has simply drawn most of the attention from opposing offensive linemen.
Quarles has decided he’d rather not face the kind of questions Clowney is having to answer this year. If he had decided to stick around for his senior season, Quarles would have likely had a similar kind of season that Clowney has so far in 2013 – one in which he has been technically disruptive but his production hasn’t shown up on the stat sheet because opposing offenses game-plan away from him.
It will interesting to see if Clowney attracts attention away from Quarles at the NFL Combine and other draft-related activities in much the same way opposing blocking schemes are designed with him as the focal point.