I recently had the satisfaction of rejecting a small child’s layup in a game of one-on-one, and it couldn't have felt better.
I had a two-foot and nearly 150-pound advantage on this worthy adversary, and as the ball ricocheted off my palm and sailed into nearby shrubbery, a grin quickly developed from ear to ear.
It was unfair, juvenile and incredibly rude. The youngster was shocked that a grown man would guard the basket so intently given the situation, although that didn’t make this moment any less more enjoyable.
This is how Jadeveon Clowney has felt his entire life. He knows nothing else. The only difference, however, is that he’s dominated men of his own age or older at the most elite level.
The South Carolina defensive end (and perhaps more going forward) is a physical rarity, a once-in-a-decade kind of player. Physically, we’ve never seen anyone like him. You know this already, despite the fact that you haven't see him at his very best just yet.
In the new age of recruiting, we heard about Clowney long before he had a chance to compete at the collegiate level. He was the consensus No. 1 overall player heading into his senior season and followed that up by destroying box scores, linemen, quarterbacks, tacklers (yes, tacklers) and opposing parents' egos.
His statistics from his senior season are hilarious and terrifying if you were forced to line up against him.
He racked up 162 tackles, 29.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, 43 quarterback pressures and five defensive touchdowns. He also played running back on a limited basis, where he averaged nearly nine yards a carry and scored nine touchdowns.
As a freshman last season, Clowney burst onto the scene as expected, although his head coach worked him in slowly out of the gate.
He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and All-SEC second team, finishing the year with 36 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks and five forced fumbles. He worked his way more into the rotation as the season progressed, and in 2012 he’ll likely rarely be off the field.
It was strange seeing Clowney settle into a three-point last year initially. His frame is almost too lean for a defensive end, and he's built more like a power forward than a defensive lineman.
At 6’6” and 260 pounds, however, he very much fits the mold. We're just not used to our defensive linemen having less body fat than the opposing running backs and quarterbacks they're slinging to the turf.
He has the size and speed to do more than just come off the edge, and he might have the chance to prove it soon enough. Josh Kendall at The State provided the following intriguing tidbit on Monday, and it would seem that the Ol’ Ball Coach is up to his ol' tricks.
Look for Jadeveon Clowney at MLB some this year, Steve Spurrier says.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) August 6, 2012
Whether Spurrier is simply giving Vanderbilt something to think about or this is actually being installed into the defensive game plan will be known soon enough.
Regardless, this chatter will keep offensive coordinators and linemen in the film room a little longer, even if he only changes positions on occasion. And if you’re a slot wide receiver looking to take a slant over the middle against South Carolina, be afraid. Be very afraid. Actually, just stay the hell out of there altogether.
Clowney will likely find himself all over the field in a lot of ways. He may drop back into coverage from time to time, although Spurrier will instead likely bounce him inside and outside on the defensive line. This is the ultimate new-toy syndrome, and he'll certainly make the most of of these next two years.
Keeping him further away from the quarterback for an extended period, however, even with deception being the intent, would take away what Clowney could do better than anyone on the planet. This is why you won’t see it much, if at all, although Steve Spurrier will likely continue to tell you otherwise until he heads off to the NFL draft.
Bless him for it.
Expect carnage to continue and more of the same from Clowney, regardless of where he lines up. He will continue the trend of making elite players look incredibly average, and his athleticism will take over as he develops as a player and acquires more moves.
Oh, what a force he will be for the coming years. We will marvel as he makes 300-pound, world-class athletes look foolish and feel just a hint of jealousy in how easy he makes it all look.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a pickup game with my name on it.