I don’t know that Jadeveon Clowney will ever become as divisive a figure as Johnny Manziel, but college football’s most famous defensive player is on the heels of the sport’s most famous offensive player.
So what’s the deal with South Carolina’s star defensive end? Is there anything to the criticism he has received for how he's started out the season? I set out to answer that by polling several coaches. Most of them sided with the overreaction camp. Some did not.
Bear in mind that, as my friend Michael Haney (no relation) of WNKT-FM in Columbia, S.C., pointed out, Clowney’s statistics through two games in 2013 are virtually identical to a year ago.
2012: six tackles (two for loss), two QB hurries, one sack
2013: six tackles (two for loss), three QB hurries, one sack
So he’s been ... better? And that’s against stronger competition in 2013 (North Carolina, Georgia) than 2012 (Vanderbilt, East Carolina).
The difference, obviously, is the microscope that he is now under. It’s a different animal for a defensive lineman than, say, a quarterback like Manziel. It’s so much more difficult to have a consistent impact on the game when you’re rushing from one side of the line versus getting the ball snapped to you on every play.
That’s why it’s hard enough for a receiver to stay in the Heisman conversation, let alone a defensive end.
Here’s a look at what three college football coaches from power conferences and one NFL-affiliated source had to say regarding Clowney’s early-season performance and the resulting criticism: