South Carolina Gamecocks's Jadeveon Clowney (7) tries to beat East Carolina Pirates's Jordan Davis (78) during a NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. South Carolina defeated East Carolina 56-37. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier said late last season that he didn't know what kind of tailback Marcus Lattimore would be until his 182-yard performance against Georgia in the second game.
Heading into this week's game against the Bulldogs, Spurrier may have a better idea about his newest touted freshman, Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6, 254-pound defensive end started in last week's win over East Carolina and made seven tackles.
"He's also a power rusher," Spurrier said with excitement. "In high school he flew around all over the place, but he's actually gained about 10 pounds and can use a power move also, which is obviously very good for defensive ends.
"We're trying to let him learn his way. He's done a very good job of just being one of the guys."
Clowney was the consensus No. 1 player nationally in the 2011 signing class after amassing an eye-popping 162 tackles, 29 sacks and five defensive touchdowns as a senior at South Pointe High in Rock Hill, S.C. The Gamecocks opened last week in Charlotte, which is just up the road from home.
"I was ready to play anywhere," Clowney said. "I just wanted to get it out of the way so I could know how the speed of the game is."
A seven-tackle debut is notable, but what's even more impressive is Clowney's rapid ascent on South Carolina's defensive front. Senior Melvin Ingram and junior Devin Taylor were the projected starting ends entering preseason camp, but coaches shifted Ingram inside last week to start alongside Travian Robertson.
Ingram, who will play tackle and end, finished third in the Southeastern Conference last season with nine sacks and has served in recent weeks as Clowney's mentor.
By starting Clowney and Taylor at end, the Gamecocks have the nation's top recruit and a returning All-SEC performer. The 6-7, 248-pound Taylor tallied 46 tackles and 13 tackles for loss last season, and he had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee.
So how are the two defensive ends different?
"Since I've been here longer, I play with a little more smarts," Taylor said. "He plays physical, and I use more of a mental game."
Taylor had three tackles and a tackle for loss in the opener, but South Carolina's defense struggled during the 56-37 win. Ingram had an interception, but Spurrier said the Gamecocks had problems trying to get ECU's shotgun offense off the field.
South Carolina did dominate during a 42-7 run, turning a 24-14 halftime deficit into a 56-31 lead.
The Gamecocks have turned their attention to Georgia, a team they held to two field goals last year. South Carolina's defensive front is hoping to have more of an impact this week, and Clowney is hoping his first SEC game will mirror what Lattimore accomplished during last year's matchup in Columbia.
"He's destined to be a great football player," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He's already a very good football player, but I can't imagine what will happen once he gets an offseason under his belt. He's going to be a special football player."
Said Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray: "You can tell he's going to be a tremendous player as soon as you start the film, but we just hope that's not the case this week."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...