South Carolina Football: Jadeveon Clowney Will Be the Key to the Defense

Brooke JordanCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2012

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates their 45-42 win over the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The South Carolina defensive unit lost many key players after this past season, including two first round draft picks. Replacing them could be difficult, but the Gamecocks have lots of young talent ready to step in and shine.

One of these players is sophomore Jadeveon Clowney. During his first year, he showed lots of potential, and his incredible athletic ability has gotten the attention of coaches not only around the SEC, but also around the entire nation.

Now, as offenses prepare to face their garnet and black opponents, Clowney's name will be at the top of the "watch list." If South Carolina wishes to have a successful defensive season, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will have to be the key ingredient. Here are some reasons why Clowney will be the reason for the defensive success in Columbia.

First, Clowney has more experience and is more familiar with the playbook. The skills he gained first-hand from his playing time last season exposed him to real-game situations on the college football level. As a young freshman, that exposure allowed him to grow up fast, and he can carry what he learned over into this season.

Clowney has also had more time to study the playbook and work through spring practices. He struggled last season as an 18-year-old, but that is expected. Now that he has gained valuable experience and knowledge, he is well-seasoned and ready to make a huge impact on the football field.

Clowney will also see his defensive role increased and expanded. With the loss of Melvin Ingram, he will be expected to step in and fill this spot. Clowney is very similar to Ingram in size, speed and versatility.

His play-making ability gives offensive lineman fits. Off the bench last season, Clowney had 36 tackles, eight sacks, and five forced fumbles. With his new starting role and his increasing number of reps, his stats should certainly see an increase as well.

He will also benefit from Devin Taylor's decision to return for the 2012 season. Both players are long and lean and have incredible pass rushing speed and strength.

This defensive duo will be lethal to opponents because if they pick to focus on one then the other one can easily take advantage. With Taylor's NFL-type talent on one side and Clowney's growing experience and strength on the other, South Carolina's defense will be sure to create havoc and see increasing, successful numbers.

Jadeveon Clowney will also have this summer to get even bigger, faster and stronger. His strength and conditioning workouts will develop him into a physically more complete defensive end. He can also increase his stamina.

At times last season, he looked winded and exhausted when he was on the field and coming off the field. Off-season training will allow him to develop a better stamina so he can handle the responsibilities of being an every-down defensive lineman. 

With the combination of his gained experience, growing talent and increased physicality, Jadeveon Clowney will help lift the South Carolina Gamecocks' defensive unit and will be the key to their success in the 2012 season.