This Post is Graphic in Nature: Jadeveon Clowney will disappoint in 2013


Last week I told you that stud sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall would decline in production for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Those sentiments were not contrived, they were genuine (although I will repeat: I hope everything that I wrote turns out to be wrong).  But, I did strategically debut this series with that article so that I could write articles like this one without sounding completely ignorant to life itself.  With that in mind, before you think “this guy is just a pro-Georgia homer with no respect for other teams,” please go back and re-read this article.  Maybe then I won’t sound quite as crazy when I say…

Jadeveon Clowney will regress in 2013.

That is a bold statement in and of itself, and I’m sure at the end of this season some stat-geek will come back at me with an argument that is mathematically advanced in its convenient rebuttal to my assertion.  So allow me to amend my thesis:  Jadeveon Clowney will regress in 2013 relative to the mass public’s perception of his 2012 season.  How’s that?

So, will 2k13 Clowney be decisively worse than his 2012 version (90 total tackles, 57 solo tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery and 3 forced fumbles)?  Maybe not.  But he will be worse than fans remember him being in 2012.

What am I talking about?  Am I just offering a cop-out for my prediction?  I don’t think so.  Let me dig deeper…

 

Clowney has to be worse in 2013.

That was my thesis when I began this article.  “There is no possible way he could match his production from a year ago,” I thought.  But then I looked at his actual production – not merely the perception of his production.

Clowney registered 13 sacks for 73 total yards lost in 2012.  Those are very good numbers; there’s no doubt about that.  But they weren’t the best in the SEC last year.  Clowney’s 13 total sacks did not best Jarvis Jones’ 14.5 from 2012 and did not surpass Jones’ Conference-leading total of 13.5 in 2011.  You’d have to go back to 2009 to find a time when Clowney’s 73 sack-yards would have been tops in the SEC.  The off-season hype surrounding Clowney seems more on-par with an 18-sack season.  But that 18-sack season is not a reality.  Perception, at least with Jadeveon Clowney, is not always reality.

In my mind I perceived Clowney as registering 35+ tackles for loss in 2012.  In reality he tallied 23.5.  Again, that is beyond great (the fourth highest total in the SEC since 2007), but I don’t know that I’d call it super-human.  The hype told me he had a bigger number here.

Forced fumbles?  This one certainly stands out.

But Clowney only forced two additional fumbles all year, and this play was his lone fumble recovery.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Lack of consistency:

Bowl games always get too much hype.  They are fans’ and pundits’ lasting memory of a season that is gone.  As such, they get replayed, talked about and built up entirely too much.  Combine that with the notion that every BCS Conference team playing in a Bowl (except for two) is playing for a consolation prize (seriously, click that link.  I always liked that article) following a long lay-off and Holiday season, and it is suddenly a bit ridiculous to base predictions for an upcoming season on a bowl game.  (Dude’s note: This is not a shot at Clemson fans.  Seriously.)

Jadeveon Clowney stole Bowl Season with his hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith.  It was incredible.  Everyone in the press box at the Capital One Bowl stopped watching Georgia/Nebraska and watched the hit on their laptops over and over and over again.  It was insane.  But it was ultimately insignificant as an indicator of Clowney’s potential success in 2013.  In addition to the fact that the play occurred during a relatively meaningless game, here are some things that you don’t ever hear discussed about that particular hit/explosion:

  • Vincent Smith is one foot (literally) shorter than Jadeveon Clowney and 81 pounds lighter.
  • Smith has braided hair.  Players with braided hair lose their helmets quite often.  Ask Clowney himself.
  • Smith carried the ball 38 times for a total of 94 yards in 2012 – a whipping 2.47 yards per carry.  Clowney didn’t destroy Montee Ball or Eddie Lacy in the backfield.  he destroyed Vincent Smith.
  • Smith was running behind an offensive line that allowed all of 69 yards rushing against Alabama’s defense earlier in the year.  Other teams/players had success in penetrating the Wolverine line.  Clowney wasn’t de-flowring an otherwise unblemished O-line.

Clowney’s hit was impressive, but Smith was about as close to being a stationary object as you will ever see in a major college football game.  He was tiny. He had very little protection.  He had no prior history of elusiveness or the ability to escape tackles.

“But don’t forget,” you might suggest, “that South Carolina’s final regular season game saw Clowney terrorize Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense.  He registered 4.5 sacks in that game.”

So, while pundits point to Clowney “finishing hot,” could one not also say that he capitalized against an ACC offensive line that was not used to the speed of an elite SEC defensive line?  Clemson faced Wake Forest’s defensive line on October 25th, Duke’s defensive line on November 3rd, Maryland’s defensive line on November 10th, NC State’s defensive line on November 17th and then out of nowhere had to play Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina.

That’s a bit of a harsh change of pace.  Case in point, here are Clemson’s point totals in those five consecutive games:

  • Wake Forest: 42
  • Duke: 56
  • Maryland: 45
  • NC State: 62
  • South Carolina: 17

To be fair, there are two sides to each story.   Clowney’s 4.5 sacks could have been a result of Clowney being unstoppable.  Those sacks might not have had anything to do with Clemson’s inefficiencies and inability to prepare.  But I think that theory falls apart when you look at this series of numbers:

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 2, 2, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 2, 1, 1.5, 1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0

What are those numbers?  Those are Jadeveon Clowney’s individual game Sack statistics against BCS Conference opponents other than his freak 4.5 sack game.  A few things stand out to me that make the 4.5 number seem a bit out of place:

  • Clowney registered twice as many games in this series without a sack (8) as he did with more than 1 sack (4).
  • Only once in 2012 (again, outside of the Clemson game) did Clowney register more than one sack against a BCS Conference foe.  That was his 1.5 sack performance against Missouri.
  • His 4.5 sack performance against Clemson in 2012 represented more sacks than he had in combined games against Auburn in 2011 (0), Kentucky in 2011 (0), Mississippi State in 2011 (1), Tennessee in 2011 (0), Arkansas in 2011 (0), Florida in 2011 (0), Clemson in 2011 (1), Vanderbilt in 2012 (1), Georgia in 2012 (1), LSU in 2012 (0), Arkansas in 2012 (0) and Michigan in the 2012 bowl (0).
  • Over the 19 games featured in the series above, Clowney averaged .76 sacks per game.  He recorded 5.92 times that production against Clemson.

Doesn’t that Clemson game seem a little bit “uncharacteristic,” so to speak?

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

And would we really be celebrating Jadeveon Clowney as an inhuman beast if he had registered one lone sack (still higher than his career average against BCS foes) against Clemson?  I don’t think so.

If you’ve watched Clowney play, you know that statistics don’t tell the whole story.  Accordingly, I can’t say that he is inconsistent.  And even his stats seem to deny that point.  Even a 9.5 sack season (what Clowney would have had with just one sack against Clemson), is a far-cry from inconsistent.  But I can say this: Clowney has not been a consistently dominating statistical force.  He’s been great in bunches.

A little help please…

Here’s a quick recap of who South Carolina lost from last year’s defense:

  • Devin Taylor, the other monster DE that terrorized Georgia.
  • Byron Jerideau, defensive tackle who started all 13 games.
  • Aldrick Fordham, a key reserve at DE who registered 4.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in 2012.
  • The top 5 linebackers.  All of them.   That’s 217.5 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 7 pass breakups, 5 INTs, 7 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.
  • D.J. Swearinger, stud defensive back who registered 10+% of the team’s tackles.
  • Brad Lawing, Defensive Line Coach since Spurrier arrived.  Was lured away by Florida.

Is it that far-fecthed to think teams might be able to scheme for Clowney a bit more with such an inexperienced defense taking the field?

If you’re still thinking about that, the answer is ”no.”  I don’t know the South Carolina roster inside and out (I’m sure Johnathan Barnes will speak in great detail about the Gamecock defense in weeks to come), but I know Georgia football and I think the following comparison captures this sentiment:

Georgia lost a lot on defense.  A whole lot.  But pretend that Jarvis Jones had decided to stay for a final season even though Alec Ogletree, John Jenkins, Shawn Williams, Sanders Commings, Cornelius Washington, Bacarri Rambo, Abry Jones, Kwame Geathers, Michael Gilliard, Christian Robinson and Branden Smith were all leaving.  Had Jarvis Jones stayed I would not expect him to match last season’s production (24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks).  Jones was a focal point of opposition preparation in 2012 (as was Clowney), but he would get an even larger share of film study and double-teams with less experienced talent surrounding him.

I think that will be the case for Clowney in 2013.

Prediction

Again, Clowney’s greatness (and he is truly great), cannot be measured simply by statistics, so I’m going to use a different basis for prediction.  Clowney finished 6th in Heisman voting in 2012.  My prediction: He will not finish in the Top 6 this year.

That’s all I got/

Andrew

About dudeyoucrazy

College Football Writer

Posted on June 11, 2013, in Blog, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. What do you know, I had every intention of speaking on the Carolina defense in my next article actually. And I happen to agree that Clowney will not surpass the hype, I still think he gets 10+ sacks (at least 5 on T. Boyd, lol) but I’ll explain in the article. I’m going to be sending it in tonight actually.

  2. Hmmm 1. Two ACC opponents this year instead of one. That could mean 6-8 sacks in just those two games 2. Weaker schedule (no LSU or ALA) 3. More experience 4.Goal of getting Heisman. 5. Realistic shot of an extra game with the SEC East up for grabs. Yeah your prediction is still 50/50 but my moneys on the Man from Rock Hill.

  3. Allen Searson

    I would suggest that you ask Murray about what he thinks of Clowney’s potential decline. You might get a little better perspective of how this fellow is actually perceived by the guys that really matter. Minus “player speak,” I believe he would prefer JD take a Saturday afternoon off — if previous encounters resonate. Perception prior to reality, then reality reaffirmed …. again – – – complete with a ringing sound in one’s helmet – makes the pitter patter of 7’s feet an ominous sound and could possibly alter one’s performance. Fair assessment?

    • I can respect that. I think we largely agree with how good Clowney is seeing as I used the following phrases to describe him/his performance:

      –Very good numbers, there’s no doubt about that.
      –If you’ve watched Clowney play you know the statistics don’t tell the whole story. I can’t say that he is inconsistent.
      –Clowney stole Bowl Season with his hit…
      –It was incredible.
      –It was insane.
      –Clowney’s greatness (and he is truly great), cannot be measured simply by statistics.

      If you read the article and your take away was that I don’t appreciate Clowney’s abilities or that I need another perspective to understand how good he really is, then I think you are off.

      My thesis was not “Clowney will decline,” nor was it “Clowney doesn’t scare Aaron Murray.” It wasn’t even, “Clowney doesn’t concern me as a Georgia fan.”

      The thesis was: Jadeveon Clowney will regress in 2013 relative to public perception. I stand by that prediction as I feel he is receiving more national accilaim this offseason than any defensive player in recent past. And, still feel the terms I laid out (Clowney’s finish in Heisman polling) is the best measure of how he lives up to the hype.

      In all seriousness, thank you for reading and thank you for commenting. I think we have much more in common in our views of Clowney than you may think. And perhaps I should have spent more time talking about how great he is – but I thought that was a known quantity seeing as he is a household name now.

      • Dude, The very fact that we are discussing a defensive player at this time – in this regard – is enough to realize that the players are quite aware that we (OK, some of us) as readers revel in his magnificence; its’ got to be annoying. That, in and of itself, lets me know the hype machine is working in The Carolina’s favor.
        I, will, however, have to differ with you on my use of the word “decline,” as it relates to your assessment: I believe you used terminology to the effect of “going to be worse” (excuse my laziness but I ain’t going back and checking) in 2013. Like my old high school teammate and buddy, Colie Scott, stated back in 1970, “I think A.C. Flora gonna be more worser than they were last year!” I took that to mean “decline” back then and I think that’s what you meant when you stated it yesterday….
        That said, I like your stuff. We still boyz? Big A

  4. Phillip Brooks

    Saying that a injured (foot) Clowney from 2012 who put up more than stellar stats, whose sole purpose is to disrupt the offense off the line, will not live up to the hype makes this article less than credible. I do understand your point about the changes to the rest of the D, it’s a new year…but most people following this defense will actually tell you this year should be stronger. I think you picked the wrong player to pick an upset on. If anything, I believe most people around college football would pick him as least likely to disappoint. “A” for effort, this article will haunt you post season….

    • I respectfully agree to disagree. How this makes me “less credible,” I don’t know. It is a prediction (or an opinion) that was supported by three areas of concern:

      –The national hype Clowney generated with his big hit in the Bowl game is creating a hype-monster that I believe exceeds normal (obviosuly this isn’t Clowney’s fault).
      –He was incredible against Clemson but posted very few other statistically dominating games, and those games are what build hype for a defensive player. Single-sack games won’t win him a Heisman. (I’m not saying this is right, but this is how fans across the nation who don’t watch South Carolina will perceive his statistics.)
      –A lot of the defense is gone and teams will scheme more for him.

      Even if I am proved wrong I don’t think it makes me any less credible. Clowney could have a 20-sack season and win the Heisman. I would be proven wrong, but I don’t think it would make this prediction “less than credible,” given that this article was written almost 80 days prior to the first game of the season.

      For what it’s worth I stand by my prediction. I actually have arranged a bet with a South Carolina fan on “where will Jadeveon finish in Heisman” balloting. I think that’s a good measure for “hype.”

      I will be outlining the bet – it should be fun – in the coming days and I will follow-up on it often. I’m not someone who writes something and then pretends it never happened.

      And, for what it’s worth: Clowney is not the only player who I am predicting to decline in some way (again, his decline is only relative to the offseason hype). Last week I wrote about why I expected Georgia’s stud RBs – Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall – to take a step back, So please don’t think I’m picking on Clowney. I’m writing about a different player/team/coach every Tuesday.

      Thanks for reading, and I always appreciate feedback. Shameless plug: If you keep reading my site it will be obvious that as a relatively informed football fan I do not doubt Clowney. But I think unrealistic expectations be less-informed fans are setting an unreachable bar.

  5. @Patrick, I’d be shocked to see Clowney get more than 1 against UNC. He’s going against a consensus first-rounder in his own right in James Hurst, and the Heels employ a hurry-up, quick-strike passing attack. If he makes a major impact in this one, he’s going to drop into coverage, jump a slant route, and take it to the house.

  6. Phillip Brooks

    I didn’t take anything personal, wasn’t trying to take a jab at you either. You made some great points, we’ll see how he plays out. My prediction, he is top 3 Heisman, stats will be BETTER this year. Why? He is getting bigger still, stronger, faster, and watching his progression from 1st year to 2nd year was enough to see the monster emerge. He won’t have any nagging injuries going into the season which will be huge as well…assuming his neck issue clears up (which it should). Lots of analysis, gave you a true “A” for effort on that, lots and lots of work went into this article. Read the whole thing, enjoyed it nonetheless.

  7. scottyscallinme

    I think that your statistical findings leave out several very key issues. In 2011, Jadeveon Clowney was not a starter. He played behind Melvin Ingram (first round pick to the Chargers). Furthermore, the defense Carolina ran that year was non-blitzing. Last year was Clowney’s first year as a starter and furthermore the first time that the defense blitzed from the linebacker on a consistent basis. While I agree that Devin Taylor had loads of potential, he regressed every year following his sophomore year, although to be fair Aldrick Fordham was a force. This year, Clowney will be surrounded by Chaz Sutton (5 sacks last year), J.T. Surrat (0.5 sacks last year) and Kelcy Quarles (3.5 sacks last year) as well as a linebacker core likely to blitz more given their youth.
    Clowney is bigger and faster this year (again), the rest of the defensive line is impressive and deep, the linebackers likely to blitz more often as they will be inexperienced in coverage, and our defensive backs return a lot of talent and experience and likely will be tasked with providing most of the coverage. These factors indicate that to me that our defensive line will likely see increased production as a whole. Clowney will probably have a similar statistical season to last year if not better, although it will likely be more consistent due to his health issues being resolved and his conditioning improved.

    • Clowney did start as a freshman opposite of Melvin Ingram. I would assert some of his success Freshman year was a byproduct of Ingram’s success. And I believe Devin Taylor took some pressure off of him last year as well.

      In my opinion no other DE on Carolina’s roster this year will be as much of a distraction as Ingram or Taylor.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your input. I love seeing new commenters and I love the Spurrier avatar. Well done.

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