Should Steve Spurrier Let Jadeveon Clowney Play on Offense in 2013?
Since many folks have wildly compared South Carolina’s super-stud Jadeveon Clowney to the legendary Chuck Norris, why in the world couldn’t he play on both sides of the ball?
Think about it, if Chuck Norris played football, he’d play both ways.
And, when the dust settled on his final season on the collegiate grid he’d take home the Heisman Trophy, the Doak Walker Award, the Bronco Nagurski Award, the Ted Hendricks Award, the John Mackey Award and then the Ray Guy and Lou Groza Awards just for good measure.
The following slideshow delves further into the concept of the Norris-like Clowney playing both ways in 2013 and presents a trio of pros and cons to Steve Spurrier giving his stud DE the nod to suit up with the offense as well as the D.
If nothing else, it’s intriguing to consider what Clowney, who is arguably the most skilled athlete in the college ranks, could do in terms of gaining yards as opposed to taking them away.
Pro: South Carolina’s Offense Is Needier Than Its Defense
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In what is indicative of the way the SEC works, South Carolina finished the 2012 season ranked No. 13 nationally in scoring defense versus a No. 44 rank in scoring offense.
Breaking this down further we see that the Gamecock D ranked No. 17 against the run and No. 21 versus the pass while its counterparts on offense ended last year’s campaign ranked No. 62 in rushing yards and No. 15 in passing.
Simply put, this is a program that has built its winning foundation on a stingy defense more so than on a high-flying offense.
This statistical comparison creates the angle that South Carolina should consider putting its very best athletes on the side of the ball that needs the most assistance, which in this case is the offense.
Though it would be ridiculous to pull Clowney off the defensive line where he has shined brighter than any DE in recent history, why wouldn’t or couldn’t you throw him into the mix offensively for a few plays on each possession?
This scenario is intensified when you consider the fact that the Cocks return zero starters at the RB/FB position this fall, creating a provocative situation for a 256 pound beast that, according to CBSSports.com, was just recently was clocked at 4.5 in the 40.
Con: Bigger Chance of Injury
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Perhaps the biggest con to why Spurrier should not sanction Clowney to participate offensively in 2013 is the fact that extra downs would undoubtedly increase the risk for injury.
And remember that this is a guy who, as per USAToday.com, recently took out a 5 million dollar life insurance policy to “protect against any future earnings lost to injury.”
The worry of injury and its potential effect on Clowney’s NFL draft stock has been so great that a number of national commentators have recommended that he sit out his junior season at South Carolina to stay healthy while still fulfilling the required three-year separation between high school and the pros.
So, if you give him the ball and let defenders try and take him out, or, if you put him on the offensive line and let opposing lineman have their way with him, you’re obviously working against the overall goal of career continuance.
And remember that these very-early high draft projections are all based on Clowney’s stellar defensive play, not some sort of hare-brained experiment on offense.
Pro: He’d Be South Carolina’s Second Ever Heisman Winner
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Even if we all agreed that—when the dust settled on the 2013 campaign—that Clowney was the best player in all of college football, it wouldn’t seal the deal on the Heisman.
Indeed, if South Carolina doesn’t win enough games to be on the national radar and if there is an offensive skill player who has phenomenal stats from a BCS contender, all bets are off for Clowney regardless of how good he is.
The fact that only one primarily defensive player has ever won the Heisman (Charles Woodson from Michigan in 1997) does nothing but prove that the deck is stacked against linebackers, defensive lineman, defensive backs, etc.
Now, if Clowney played for Notre Dame, or USC, or Texas or Alabama you could make an argument that he’d be in a different category with a somewhat easier path to the bronze statuette.
Don’t think so?
Well, how did the Irish’s Manti Te’o, who finished 2012 with 18 less tackles for a loss and 11.5 fewer sacks than Clowney did, make the trip to NY City for the trophy presentation?
The answer is simple, he played for Notre Dame.
But, if Clowney could add some offensive yards and a few TDs to go along with his sizzling defensive results there might be absolutely nothing standing between him and the glory of being named the Cocks' second ever Heisman winner in history.
Con: His Defensive Stats Would Suffer
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The truth is, whenever you gain one thing it’s natural that another area must suffer.
In the case of Jadeveon Clowney this means that it’s only logical to think that if he were to play offense, even minimally, that his defensive output would logically have to suffer to some degree.
Any arguments that contend that this wouldn’t happen would be like saying that Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel yardage totals wouldn’t drop if he decided to play DB for a couple of series during each game.
So, one of the inherent costs associated with trying Clowney out on offense would be a reduction in a stat resume which included, for 2012 only, 40 solo tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, two broken up passes, five QB hurries and three forced fumbles.
And honestly, who in the wild world of sports would want to mess with that?
Pro: Every Single South Carolina Game Would Be on National Television
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Even though nine of the Gamecocks 12 regular season games in 2012 where featured on ESPN, CBS or ESPN 2, if Clowney were to play both ways next season this number would rise even higher.
Yes, if Clowney were to suit up with the offense, even for a couple of plays each game, South Carolina would become more of a priority in terms of which network carried the game and then which prime time slot the game was featured in.
While games at Georgia, at Tennessee, vs. Florida and vs. Clemson would be well slotted regardless of Clowney, if he were to have some yardage opportunities coverage would explode into upcoming games vs. North Carolina, vs. Vanderbilt and even the slated contest at UCF.
Though TV coverage isn’t the end goal of college football, the exposure certainly wouldn’t hurt a program like South Carolina that is slowly morphing into one of the consistently dominant forces in what is the best conference in the BCS ranks.
Con: Where Do You Put Him?
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Perhaps the real meat of the question of whether or not Steve Spurrier should give Clowney an opportunity offensively is where would you put him on the other side of the ball?
While at 6’ 6” and 256 pounds he’d be a huge back who could probably block anyone effectively; it’s also easy to argue that he’d be a force to be reckoned with as a somewhat undersized offensive lineman.
Beyond that, wouldn’t it be interesting to see him as a TE who could both block and then lumber down the field with the ball in an almost un-tackle-able fashion.
Again, as a TE he’d be as wildly attractive a blocker without the ball as he would be in a RB/FB role.
Either way, wouldn’t you love to see guys try to tackle him?
In terms of what South Carolina needs offensively in 2012, it returns four starters to the O-line and zero starting rushers meaning that the biggest hole he could fill would be as a back.
Regardless, with very little past offensive participation it’s frankly difficult to gauge how Clowney would do across the line of scrimmage.
But, and all logic aside, his speed, strength and style of play couldn’t be a bad thing on any well-coached offense.
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Though featuring Clowney on offense in 2013, even minimally, would whip the media into a frenzy, perhaps give the Gamecocks offense a much-needed spark and possibly bring the program its second-ever Heisman, really the upsides stop there.
At the end of the day you’ve got to wonder if these somewhat underwhelming pros outweigh the risks of diminishing Clowney’s defensive effectiveness and amping up his chances of getting injured.
And all of this when you aren’t really sure how you’d best utilize his skill set on offense and if he would have any real impact in terms of yards, points and wins.
Therefore, despite the fact that it’s intriguing to consider the beastly Clowney on offense, it seems almost ridiculous to risk reducing his substantial influence on the Gamecock defense, the unit that fuels the program, just to see what he could do on offense.
The verdict in this case is decided in favor of Clowney staying where he belongs, on defense, regardless of how tempting it is to want to see him run over defenders and cross the goal line gloriously.
The truth is we may see that precise scenario anyway, not offensively, but if and when Clowney manages to get a hold of the ball as a defender.