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2013 Outback Bowl: Stopping South Carolina's Clowney Must Be Michigan's Mission

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2013 Outback Bowl: Stopping South Carolina's Clowney Must Be Michigan's Mission
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Jadeveon Clowney is an elite-level defender.

Jadeveon Clowney will be of high priority New Year's Day. 

The South Carolina Gamecocks' 6'6", 256-pound star defensive end will have the focus of the Michigan Wolverines in the 2013 Outback Bowl. 

No question there. 

Confident in his abilities, Clowney believes he can win the Heisman Trophy next year. He has the skill set, and Jan. 1 will be the perfect opportunity for him start 2013 on a high note by dominating the Wolverines offensive linemen. 

The 8-4 Wolverines faced a flock of fierce linebackers like Max Bullough this year. They saw the William Gholstons of the world. They experienced the entire Alabama defense in Week 1. Notre Dame's Manti T'eo, a 2012 Heisman finalist, even had his shot. 

Michigan knows all about great defenders. 

Is Clowney the best defensive player Michigan will face this year?

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Clowney is at the level of the aforementioned. He may even be slightly better. 

And if Brady Hoke has his quarterback's safety in mind—Devin Gardner surely hopes so—he'll have to team up with Al Borges and devise a scheme to stop Clowney. 

That won't be easy, either. 

 

Watching Clowney

From the onset of each play, Clowney focuses on his targets and doesn't stop until he gets his man.

Depending on where Clowney is placed at the line of scrimmage, Michigan tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will be on the other side. Lewan is a potential first-rounder should he opt for the upcoming NFL draft. 

Schofield, a 6'7", 299-pound junior, could have trouble. 

Clowney is deceptively nimble and accelerates well for a guy his size. His sheer strength and grip allow him to quickly strike targets and never let loose.

Watch the way he lines up in this video and ask yourself one question: "How is Michigan going to get in front of this guy?"

 

Let's Present the Visual Evidence

Clowney was all business against Clemson -- ask Tajh Boyd.

In this video, you'll notice Clowney cut through the Clemson line with ease. Right side. Left side. Up the middle or around the end, Clowney had 4.5 sacks in a game that Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd will remember for the rest of his life. 

In fact, Boyd probably trembles when Clowney's name is mentioned. It has to be an uncomfortable feeling for Boyd in knowing that a single player overpowered each of the 300-pounders that were supposed to protect him. 

Clowney had a sack in all but three games this season, and he is ranked second in the nation in tackles-for-loss per game (1.95) and sacks per game (1.18).

The Wolverines offensive line was the subject of criticism, especially after losses to Alabama and Nebraska. However, the group allowed the fewest sacks in the Big Ten (15). Sure, Michigan will have to contend with SEC big boys, but the fact that it allowed just over a sack per game bodes well for confidence. 

The Gamecocks have receivers like Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders who can devastate the Wolverines. Safety D.J. Swearinger is one to watch as well. 

But Clowney is capable of single-handily affecting the outcome. And, for obvious reasons, he's the one player the Wolverines have to zero in on come New Year's Day. 

 

Brady Hoke on Clowney?

Hoke breaks down Clowney

Hoke's never been a wordsmith. He tells things the way the are, according to him, of course. Clowney is good, let's put it that way. 

While this video is a spoof of Hoke's simplicity, he could find himself at a similar loss for words when asked about Clowney. 

How do you defend the Gamecocks star? 

Mmm. Umm. Uhhh.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, wouldn't you think? 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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