South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is a favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and is arguably the best player in college football.
Right now, he has his eyes set on college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy.
Can he claim it?
The Gamecocks' superstar defensive end possesses speed, power and a physical edge that is second to none. These skills can carry Clowney to the status of a college football legend in 2013.
Will anyone be able to slow down "The Freak" on his quest for the Heisman?
Here is a look at Clowney's Heisman odds and his outlook for the 2013 season.
If the Heisman Trophy were given to the best player at the start of the season, Clowney would be a total lock. But it doesn't work that way.
Clowney can win this award and become just the second defensive player in history to take home a Heisman.
The main reason is that he truly is college football's best player.
He is dominant. He is a force. He is smart. He is a game-changer.
All of these are qualities a Heisman Trophy candidate needs to have. Check off all of those boxes, because Clowney has it all.
He can win this award because no one can slow him down. Clowney sheds double- and triple-teams and still finds a way to get to the quarterback in time. No one can stop this kid.
Clowney also has South Carolina's defensive packages working for him, as well as a solid group of defensive linemen around him. The Gamecocks run the "Rabbit," an all-out pass rush package that features four defensive ends. This takes some pressure off of Clowney.
Lastly, Clowney has all eyes on him.
The nation knows he is the best player, and it is his golden opportunity to seize the moment and capture a piece of football history by winning the Heisman.
Few forces can stop Clowney, but he will face obstacles this season just like any Heisman hopeful would.
Clowney will have to deal with double- and triple-teams, playing in the spotlight and having exceedingly high pressure and expectations placed on him.
But his biggest obstacle is the fact that he is a strictly defensive player.
Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 as a three-way player for the Michigan Wolverines. He is the only defensive player to win the award, but he also played other positions.
Clowney only plays defensive end.
He is working against history, and it will be an uphill climb—though, if any defensive player is able to win a Heisman, it's Clowney.
Clowney is lucky that he plays for one of college football's dark horses for a BCS title in 2013.
South Carolina has a favorable schedule. By winning games, the Gamecocks can assist Clowney on his way to the Heisman. With any season in the SEC, there are going to be some tough games.
The key games for Clowney this season are against Georgia and Clemson.
South Carolina and Georgia have the rivalry going strong. It's an early-season game in Week 2 where Clowney can provide some early separation for himself in the Heisman race.
Clowney needs to terrorize Aaron Murray, and the Gamecocks need to win that football game on the road in Athens, Georgia. He can have a major impact on that game, and he will need to do so against another one of college football's top teams.
The middle of the season is a time for Clowney to produce some big games against some weaker competition. All of that will set up his marquee final matchup of the year with the Clemson Tigers.
Clemson has star quarterback Tajh Boyd, who is agile and one of the nation's best quarterbacks. Clowney can swoop in and lock up the Heisman by leaving a lasting image in the final week of the season schedule.
A dominant performance against a good football team with a very good quarterback will all but lock up the Heisman for South Carolina's superstar.
The real question is what don't I love about him.
Clowney embodies everything that a college football player should be. He has the heart of a champion and a competitive drive. He also is a total freak, which is why that nickname of "The Freak" fits him so well.
Never before has there been a defensive end with his speed, strength and flawless technique. He will swim and spin his way past offensive linemen or drive right through them on his pursuit to the quarterback.
Clowney brings together Reggie White's heart for the game, Lawrence Taylor's edge and the late Deacon Jones' pass-rushing abilities. To have one of these qualities is special. To possess all of them is unreal.
Clowney has all of the talent, and he is a really likable player.
Forget about giving 110 percent. Clowney takes that to a whole new level and gives 220 percent.
He changes games in the blink of an eye. Defensive players hardly dominate games week in and week out. It is a rare bunch that can. Clowney is a part of that elite group, and he honestly could be their leader.
Clowney has it all and works harder than everyone still. He keeps gets faster, better and stronger.
He is an athletic juggernaut and the most entertaining football player to watch.
If all of that doesn't make you love a player, then I don't know what will.
The praise for Clowney is endless.
All you need to do is watch ESPN's latest feature on "The Freak."
But here is what others are saying about him.
From Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina defensive coordinator, via ESPN: "I've never seen a player who had the ability to take the dive then make the quarterback pitch the ball, then run the pitch down and that happened in the Florida game last year."
From Steve Spurrier, South Carolina head coach, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN): "We act like we didn't even try to block Clowney today. Maybe we're afraid to block him, I don't know. Hopefully, he's that good but I've seen other people block him. He doesn't get to the quarterback every play like he did today just about."
From Mike Davis, South Carolina running back (via AP): "Clowney is a freak of nature, so going against him and the defensive line we have is only make those guys better."
From Edward Aschoff, ESPN SEC blogger:
Clowney is easily the best defensive player in the country and he might be the nation's best overall player, regardless of position. He has incredible measurables, elite speed and athleticism, and is stronger than an ox. Without him, South Carolina's new-look defense would take a major hit in 2013. He's the motor that makes that defense run and is the main reason why the Gamecocks have the SEC's best defensive line. His mere presence on the field makes teams change their game plans.
From Zach Snyder, Clowney's high school defensive line coach, via Greg Bishop of the New York Times: “I’ve seen him jump over an entire offensive line to block a field goal, picked off a tunnel screen. Numerous big hits, sacks, blocked passes.”
From Larry Fedora, North Carolina Tar Heels head coach, via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:
I've never played against a guy that's 272 pounds and runs a 4.4. ... And it's obvious on film. He plays at a different speed than other guys, because he is faster than other guys. And then he plays hard. And you see him out (there) -- I'm trying to remember which game it was where I saw them hand the ball off to a back on a sweep, and he broke and I think Clowney caught him about 25 yards down the field. So he can run.
From Mark Richt, Georgia Bulldogs head coach, via the Augusta Chronicle:
I said he might be the best one on the planet or something like that and it became news. I think that Clowney, I think he’s the best college football player in America. There’s a couple other guys you could debate on that. …I think if you give him a couple of years of him learning, once he’s in the NFL and he’s got a couple of years going through that learning curve or whatever, my bet is he’ll be one of the best if not the best before his career is over in that league. That might be a better way to say it.
Last season, Clowney logged 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. Both are respectable numbers. And by respectable, I mean really really good.
But, if he is looking for a Heisman, he is going to need a spectacular season with increases in those categories.
Clowney will have to torture quarterbacks with sack after sack after sack.
Here are the stats I am predicting for Clowney's 2013 Heisman campaign:
60 total tackles
28.5 tackles for loss
4 forced fumbles
1 fumble recovery
Will this be enough to seize the Heisman?
Clowney has the talent, national exposure and potential to win a Heisman.
He needs to strike down the predetermined views that defensive players cannot win the Heisman. This makes Clowney's quest extremely difficult. With that said, Clowney will make his way to the Heisman Trophy presentation as a finalist.
He will put together an incredible season, and he will ride some of his team's success since he is the Gamecocks' star player.
Clowney will have a memorable season of torching offensive lines and putting quarterbacks on their backside.
If he puts up the stats that I have projected, then he should win the Heisman. He would be most deserving.
Still, as a defensive player, it will not be enough to take home the trophy.
Clowney will be amazing, yet he will finish third in the Heisman race, which is really impressive.
Predicted Finish: 3rd