Tuesday Doomsday: Revisiting a Prediction for Clowney’s Decline
Over the summer, I got bored and did a little predictive trolling of some college football stars. The goal of the exercise was to identify some players/coaches/teams that were due for a decline. Here are the topics that I explored.
- Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Tajh Boyd
- Will Muschamp
- Teddy Bridgewater
- Johnny Manziel
Last week, I revisited the prediction for Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Today, I’ll share a few thoughts on Jadeveon Clowney.
Coming Out of Retirement
I know, I know. A few weeks ago I “retired” Clowney talk on the site. But, in fairness to the Tuesday Doomsday series I have to talk about him at least one more time. I’ll try to do as much of this as possible by reciting previously written commentary, as there’s really nothing new to add.
What I Said This Summer
The full article entitled “Jadeveon Clowney will Disappoint in 2013” is here, but here are the summary points as written on June 11:
Thesis: He will be worse than fans remember him being.
- 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.
- 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 in 2012), 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.
- 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?
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.
Brief Analysis/Checking Up
As I asserted, the hype for Jadeveon Clowney was much more than his 2012 performance merited. Combine that unreasonable hype with the general public’s general lack of understanding of defensive line play and some injuries, and Clowney has failed to live up to the preseason hoopla. Calm down Gamecocks: I’m not bashing the guy. I’m bashing the hype.
Half-way through the regular season, Clowney has registered 14 total tackles (15th on the team), three tackles-for-loss for a total of 17 yards (tied for fourth on the team) and two sacks (tied for 16th in the SEC).
I’ll say it one more time loud and clear: Clowney is more than statistics. Unfortunately as a defensive player, gaudy statistics are a prerequisite for Heisman consideration. And, if we’re being real honest, Clowney’s production has not been what it has been in years past – even if only because of injury and lack of surrounding talent. Assuming a 13 game season, Clowney is on pace for 30 tackles (he registered 36 as a true freshman and 54 last year), 6.5 tackles for loss (12.0 as a frosh, 23.5 last year) and 4.5 sacks (8.0 in 2011, 13.0 last season).
I stand by these three paragraphs written immediately following the Georgia/South Carolina game:
The problem with the South Carolina defense is not Jadeveon Clowney. The problem is the rest of the unit. Clowney is no longer a guy who can merely be “schemed around.” He’s now a guy who I believe can be exploited. Why? Because there is so little around him. South Carolina cannot stack the opposite side of the field, because the Gamecocks don’t have enough talent. South Carolina cannot counter Clowney in any way. So now, Clowney is their defense’s biggest weakness as he makes the direction of each play abundantly clear.
As it stands now, Clowney is not much more than a really scary compass that tells an opponent where to go on offense. Trust me, you don’t want to ignore the compass. But if you follow its needle, you’ll have a chance to be successful. And to be clear: I’m not blaming Clowney for this. I’m blaming South Carolina’s lack of additional talent. The Gamecocks lost more than 99% of their production from linebackers this year. That’s not a made up number used as hyperbole. It’s a real stat. Clowney is a compass pointing to weakness on the opposite side of the field.
And for what it’s worth: I don’t subscribe to the “he’s really, really, really hard to scheme around” school of thought if he’s playing that compass role. On Saturday, the Georgia offense racked up over 500 yards, more than 40 points and did not turn the ball over. Did Georgia prepare for Clowney? Certainly. But he affected preparations more than he affected the game itself (which is a credit to Bobo & Co.). But the point is this: Georgia’s offense balled out of control against Clowney. Again, 538 yards of offense, 41 points and no turnovers. When was the last time the Bulldogs did that? It happened last year when Georgia stomped Vanderbilt 48-3. I bet Georgia “schemed” for that game too.
That’s all I got/