Jadeveon Clowney was a first-team All-American in 2012, finishing the year with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss despite facing constant double-teams. Had he not been 20 years old and too young to enter the 2013 NFL draft, the sweeping consensus says he would have been the No. 1 overall pick.
And he accomplished all of that without being in shape.
At least that's how Clowney puts it. According to Josh Kendall of The State, the South Carolina Gamecocks' all-world defensive end said he's in better shape now than he ever was in 2012:
“I used to get tired last year during games a lot,” Clowney said. “Now I just got myself really in shape. That’s all it was. I am not worried about my game, because my game was all right last year. I was just out of shape last year, but I am in shape (now).”
[Defensive coordinator Lorenzo] Ward told Clowney before South Carolina’s summer conditioning drills began that he expected him to be in the best shape of his life this season.
“I don’t think he pushed himself enough during the season or off-field, whatever he did (off the field). He did not get enough rest,” Ward said. “I think you will see a different guy as far as effort every down this season.”
It's weird (and rare) to see anybody criticize Clowney's 2012 performance. He's been described as an otherworldly prospect by ESPN's Todd McShay, and the kind of guy who stands out both in the gym and on every down on tape.
But apparently his fitness left something to be desired last year—even if the untrained (or normal) eye couldn't see it. The thought of Clowney just now "finally" getting in shape, though, has to strike fear in every coach on the Gamecocks schedule.
If they couldn't block him before (here's looking at you, Dabo Swinney), how are they supposed to block him now?
Here's a brief preview of exactly what opponents might have in store:
Per Kendall's piece, Ward estimates that Clowney played with proper energy on "80 percent" of last year's snaps. If he pushes that number to 100, an (admittedly) crude extrapolation would give him 16.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss in 2013.
Both of those figures would have led the NCAA last season—by a considerable amount.