SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has made a name for himself by terrorizing offensive lines, quarterbacks and opposing coaches over his two years in Columbia.
He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash earlier this month -- unheard of from a defensive lineman. Last week, Clowney reportedly blocked a field goal in practice by kicking the ball out of the holder’s hands. In the Outback Bowl, he sent Michigan running back Vincent Smith into another dimension with this hit.
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It’s plays like that which have Clowney on the preseason Heisman Trophy radar. No purely defensive player has ever won the Heisman, and only three defense-only players have finished as high as second -- with the most recent from that group being Manti Te’o.
Notre Dame quarterback and fellow South Carolina native Everett Golson got to know Clowney before heading to South Bend, and thinks highly of the defensive end. Golson’s on board with Clowney’s early Heisman buzz, albeit with a caveat.
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“I hope he does (win it),” Golson said, then paused for a few seconds. “But at the same time, you know, I think I’m pushing for the same thing. It’s maybe a goal some may say is a little bit far-fetched, but I want to be the best competitor I can be. I want to see him do great, but I also want to be there at the same time.”
A head-to-head battle between Golson and Clowney for the Heisman Trophy doesn't appear likely right now, about five months before the season kicks off. But Golson and Clowney have gone against each other before.
Recently, a video made the rounds of Clowney sacking Golson in the 2010 South Carolina Class AAA title game.
When asked about the play Friday, Golson remembered it like it happened yesterday. The quarterback got a giant grin on his face when he thought about it -- although it’s easier for him to look back on it, since Golson’s Myrtle Beach team beat South Pointe and Clowney in the game.
“Let’s just say, what we planned to happen didn’t happen at all,” Golson laughed. “It was the complete opposite.”
Golson’s tight end was split out wide before the play, and came in motion toward the offensive line. The tight end was supposed to lay a crack back block on Clowney -- only, if you watch for him on the video, he winds up barely getting an arm on the defensive end.
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From there, Clowney drives Golson’s left tackle back. Myrtle Beach’s running back comes over to block, but is no match. Clowney breaks through both players and chases down Golson, throwing him to the ground for a sack on the first play of the game.
Golson was hardly the first quarterback to feel helpless against a Clowney rush, and his explanation of the play is probably similar to what plenty of other quarterbacks would say about seeing Clowney barreling toward them.
“I try to get out, but he’s a great athlete, and it wasn’t really no combat from me, I guess,” Golson said. “I couldn’t do anything. I was at a loss, so I just kinda took that one.”