Manti Te'o has been the recipient of a ton of Heisman Trophy hype thanks to his dominance in big games and leading Notre Dame into the thick of the BCS National Championship discussion.
But another star defensive player has been overlooked in this year's Heisman Trophy race: South Carolina sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
He won't get to New York this season, but his game against intrastate rival Clemson on Saturday night in Death Valley was the unofficial start of his 2013 Heisman Trophy campaign.
Clowney was all over the field on Saturday night to the tune of 4.5 sacks, breaking the South Carolina single-season record for sacks on the season with 13—three more than the previous mark of 10.
Head coach Steve Spurrier had high praise for his star defensive end after the game, according to Darryl Slater of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier:
"You can't block Jadeveon one-on-one," Spurrier said.— Darryl Slater (@DarrylSlater) November 25, 2012
Without running back Marcus Lattimore or starting quarterback Connor Shaw in the lineup, Clowney took over the game in a way that we've seen Te'o and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones do on numerous occasions this season.
It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for Clowney—or any defensive player—to actually win it. But the tides may be turning on the anti-defense mindset for the Heisman Trophy.
Ndamukong Suh was a finalist in 2009, as was Tyrann Mathieu in 2011. It is just about a guarantee that Te'o will be in New York in two weeks as a finalist.
If Clowney can take over games in 2013 the way he did in 2012, especially in big games like Saturday's win over Clemson, don't be surprised to see him in New York at the end of next season.
The Head Ball Coach couldn't resist jabbing Clemson following the win, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Steve Spurrier opens with: "It seems like when we play Clemson they don’t play very well."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) November 25, 2012
When you have Jadeveon Clowney, that tends to happen. If he keeps it up, he may take home the most prestigious individual award in college sports before his South Carolina career comes to a close.