Criticism of elite college football players is normal around this time of year. But with the 2014 NFL draft less than three weeks away, calling out a potential No. 1 overall pick might rub some people the wrong way.
That's exactly what Merril Hoge of ESPN did on Monday afternoon, questioning—of all things—Jadeveon Clowney's football abilities, per Evan Silva of Rotoworld:
ESPN's Merril Hoge called Jadeveon Clowney's fundamentals "atrocious." "Not a very good football player .. Gets controlled & trucked a lot."— Evan Silva (@evansilva) April 21, 2014
This isn't the first time that someone has called the defensive end's outlook and NFL potential into question throughout the offseason. During the process, an AFC scout compared Clowney to Randy Moss in terms of "effort and overall passion," per NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler, and even his own head coach added a few barbs.
"He was OK," Steve Spurrier said a few months back on NFL Network (via Jeff Reynolds of NFLDraftScout.com). "It wasn't like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they're not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he's got something no one else has."
In Hoge's defense, his quote was meant to be in comparison to another first-round defensive player, but it went a little off the rails.
Silva shared Hoge's thoughts on Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and why he would take him over Clowney in the first round:
ESPN's Merril Hoge also said he would take Khalil Mack "in a heartbeat" over Jadeveon Clowney. "In the first round, all day."— Evan Silva (@evansilva) April 21, 2014
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report gave his response on Twitter to the outlandish statement by Hoge:
Merril Hoge calls Jadeveon Clowney an atrocious football player. In related news, day drinking is a thing at ESPN.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 21, 2014
The former Pittsburgh Steeler has become known for his brash analysis of players over the years. Back in March, Hoge called out Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on SportsCenter and said he has "bust written all over him," per ESPN.com's Pat McManamon.
Is Hoge right in his assessment?
Unfortunately, neither player has a chance at the moment to silence Hoge's criticisms. For now, they're both awaiting their fates next month when the NFL draft gets underway. However, both can end any sort of criticisms from Hoge or other analysts by shining at the NFL level.
Regardless of what Hoge believes, if scouts for the Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams or other teams with top-five draft picks think Clowney is talented enough to change their franchise, he will still come off the board early.
Thanks to both his outstanding athleticism and overbearing power on the field, Clowney can prove himself as the best defensive player when his career starts next season. And whichever team chooses to pull the trigger on the former South Carolina star will be getting a player with a huge chip on his shoulder from analysts like Hoge and others putting him down.
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