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.
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?
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.
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/