Clowney plans big final season with USC

Gamecocks star ready to take aim at Heisman

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 18, 2012 

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney

RENEE ITTNER-MCMANUS — rittnermcmanus@thestate.com

The NFL says Jadeveon Clowney must remain in college one more season before he is eligible for the professional draft.

Clowney would prefer to turn pro right now, but since he’ll be in a South Carolina uniform one more season, he plans to make the most of it. The sophomore defensive end’s goal for the 2013 season will be to end the season in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, he said Monday.

“That’s my next thing, New York,” Clowney said. “Next season, I am going to come out and try to work harder than I did this season and try to get there.”

It’s the only awards recognition of any significance that eluded Clowney this year. Since the No. 11 Gamecocks ended their season against Clemson on Nov. 24, he has been named a unanimous first-team All-American (the second in school history, joining George Rogers) and the Hendricks Award winner as the nation’s top defensive end. He attended three other banquets — in Charlotte, Houston and Orlando — as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland and Nagurski awards.

Defensive line coach Brad Lawing attended two of the banquets with Clowney and said Clowney grew tired of the hoopla after a while.

“He said, ‘Coach it was nice to be nominated, but it doesn’t matter to me if I win,’ ” Lawing said. “I said, ‘It will to you next year, I promise you.’ ”

And Clowney thinks he has a shot at all those awards, plus the Heisman, next season.

“I believe a defensive player can win the Heisman next year,” he said.

Asked if that player would be him, he said, “It’s a possibility. I just keep playing my game, and I probably have a shot at winning next year.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a former Heisman winner and a Heisman voter, said last week that “it’ll be hard for a defensive guy to win it,” but Clowney thinks if he leads the nation in sacks and tackles-for-loss and increases his number of forced fumbles, he’ll have a shot.

Regardless of his numbers next year, Clowney will turn pro after the 2013 season, he reiterated Tuesday, and why not? ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said last week that Clowney would be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft if he were eligible.

Hearing that “makes me want to go,” Clowney said. “I’m ready to go, but I’m going to wait my three years.”

Clowney is not concerned about an injury derailing his pro prospects and will not take out an insurance policy to guard against injury, he said.

“I don’t think about getting injured,” he said. “Stuff happens all the time. You can get injured just walking somewhere, fall off a curb. I will play my game, give it all I’ve got every play. I haven’t gotten hurt yet, I don’t plan on it, knock on wood.”

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