Jadeveon Clowney: The legend keeps growing

It’s hard for a defensive player to win the Heisman, but Jadeveon Clowney’s status keeps growing

jkendall@thestate.comOctober 13, 2012 

Nov. 26, 2011: Jadeveon Clowney gets pumped after putting pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com

In explaining why Jadeveon Clowney almost certainly will never get serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy, Chris Huston sums up perfectly why maybe he should.

“Defenders are not the protagonists in the story,” Huston said. “They are the antagonists.”

Clowney was at his antagonistic best last week against Georgia when he had two tackles for loss, a sack and four tackles and made life miserable for Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray. The performance, coming in the first top 10 matchup in the history of Williams-Brice Stadium, thrust Clowney onto the national stage.

“He’s on the radar,” said Huston, publisher of HeismanPundit.com and a Heisman voting analyst for CBSSports.com.

Clowney received one third-place vote in Huston’s weekly poll of select Heisman voters this week, and it’s possible if Clowney closes with a dominant second half of the season he could be invited to New York as a Heisman finalist.

But he won’t win.

“It’s just hard for voters,” Huston said. “There is just more of a statistical basis to vote for offensive players, and there is more of a bias toward focusing on the offensive side of the ball.”

Every season, it seems, a defensive player becomes the darling of the national media and is championed as a legitimate contender for the award. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o already have filled that role this season. Jones, Te’o and Clowney all have a chance to make a New York trip as finalists this season, and Te’o probably has the best chance because he plays for Notre Dame, Huston said.

Clowney dismisses the talk of national awards, he said.

“I have just been laughing about it,” he said, and that’s a stance his teammates support.

“We don’t look at the media a lot,” senior safety D.J. Swearinger said. “We expect him to play the way he is playing because that’s the type of player he is, a game-changer. He can change an entire game, and that’s what he’s been doing.”

Clowney is second in the SEC in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (11.5).

“I think at the end of the season if people are still (talking about the Heisman), that’s great,” defensive line coach Brad Lawing said.

The national spotlight is nothing new to Clowney, who was the nation’s No. 1 recruit two years ago and even chose to extend his turn on the stage by delaying his signing for two weeks after national signing day. The Gamecocks warned Clowney that the attention would only get greater as his collegiate career progressed, coach Steve Spurrier said.

“He’s really pretty level headed,” Lawing said. “He’s been through this stuff in recruiting. He’s really easy as far as that is concerned. There are some players I would be concerned about it if it were them because I’m not sure they could handle it, but he’s fine.”

Clowney is taking his cues from his teammates, he said. All the No. 3 Gamecocks are having to squint from the glare caused by the school’s second-highest national ranking in history.

“We always say the same thing, ‘Don’t let this blow our head up,’ ” Clowney said. “We’ve just got to come out and play one day at a time and one game at a time.”

If Clowney hopes to make a trip to New York this year, he’ll need to follow up last week’s effort against LSU this week, Huston said.

“If he had led the nation in sacks or had a special stat that he could point to that singles him out, he could get to New York, especially if South Carolina goes undefeated,” Huston said. “There will be people who will say we should recognize one of their players.”

Just not with the top vote on the ballot.

“When you read a recap of a game, if South Carolina beats LSU next week, you will not read, ‘Jadeveon Clowney’s three sacks and four tackles led South Carolina to a win over LSU,’ ” Huston said. “What you’ll see is, ‘Marcus Lattimore ran for 105 yards and Connor Shaw scrambled for three touchdowns to lead South Carolina to a 41-10 win over LSU,’ and then somewhere down in the middle of the story, it’ll say, ‘The South Carolina defense harassed LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger all night long, led by Jadeveon Clowney’s three sacks.’ ”

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