It was the play that everyone remembers. It was the play that ESPN played over and over again. It was the hit that Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end for the South Carolina Gamecocks, put on Michigan Wolverines’ running back Vincent Smith in last season’s Outback Bowl.
While Clowney was having a big year in the Southeastern Conference last season, it was that particular hit that seemingly vaulted Clowney into elite status nationally. In fact, prior to the 2013 season, many thought that Clowney had a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman Trophy this season.
However, the 2013 campaign did not go as expected for Clowney. He saw a myriad of double and triple-teams, as well as opponents running to the opposite side of the field just to stay away from him. He also sat out of a game against the Kentucky Wildcats because of sore ribs, a move that saw many around the program question his dedication to the team. His head coach, Steve Spurrier, even had his doubts at times.
Due to all of those factors, Clowney’s numbers were way down in 2013. He came up with just three sacks, compared to 13 last season. He had 35 total tackles, after recording 54 in 2012.
After the season that he has had, some NFL scouts have wondered if Clowney will be taken as high in the draft as he would have been last season (Clowney was ineligible for the draft last season because he was just a true sophomore).
Now, Clowney gets one more chance to impress. And, luckily for him, it’s on the same stage as last season – a New Year’s Day bowl game. South Carolina meets the Wisconsin Badgers in the Capital One Bowl, and if Clowney can produce a highlight in that game like he did last season, the rest of the 2013 campaign may easily be forgotten.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.