By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
There is a video clip ESPN did prior to the start of the season that shows South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney depicted as the Boogeyman—the monster under the bed—and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, being played by an actor, hiding from him or being scared.
It was all done in tongue-and-check by the four-letter network after Clowney came out at SEC Media Days last July and said Boyd was scared of him, as was Georgia’s Aaron Murray and a few others.
“It was disappointing to see more than anything,” said Boyd earlier this week when discussing the video. “You don’t ever want to be associated with anything of that nature. Obviously, there is respect in this whole deal and that is what we are trying to gain.”
To gain that respect the fourth-ranked Tigers are going to have to block No. 7, and that is easier said than done. Clowney has owned Clemson the last two years and in a way has been Boyd’s boogeyman. Last year, he set a school record for sacks in a game with 4.5.
“That guy impacts the game every snap he is in the game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Trust me, whether he is sacking a guy or making the tackle or not, he is impacting the game. He is an elite football player.”
Clowney has 23 career sacks and 44 tackles for loss coming into Saturday’s Palmetto State Showdown at Williams-Brice Stadium. But this season has been a frustrating one for the junior. Nagging injuries have set him back this season, plus offenses have found different ways to neutralize his big-play potential. That’s the main reason why he only has two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
“Everybody tries to have a plan for him, but listen, everybody is so worried about him all these other guys are making plays,” Swinney said. “(Chaz Sutton), (Kelcy Quarles), (J.T. Surratt), (Gerald Dixon) and (Gerald Dixon, Jr.). All of them guys can play. They are good players. There is a bunch of good players in that front.
“Everybody tries to have a plan for Clowney because he is an elite type of guy. Even if he isn’t getting as much stats, he is still impacting the game.”
Just how is he impactful to the ninth-ranked Gamecocks? They move him around. He plays both end positions. They walk him around like he is an outside backer. They run him through gaps.
“We have to play a good football game,” Swinney said. “We have a lot of good players, but he is one of those guys you need to know where he is at.”
Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas will have to know where he is since he will more than likely be matched up against Clowney for much of the night.
“I consider it a big challenge for me,” Thomas said. “I look forward to it as I look forward to any competition. He is a great player so it is going to be fun on Saturday.”
Thomas says the best way to defend him is to come right at him and take him on. He hopes Clowney brings his “A” game and he has his.
“I’m not going to change anything,” the Clemson offensive lineman said. “I’m good enough where I don’t have to change anything and I really focus more on that. I want to focus more on me. I’m not going to change up my technique or anything.”
Thomas says last year was a learning experience for him. When going back and watching the film, he saw some things he did well and some things on Clowney that he obviously did not do very well. He says that film will have him more prepared this year.
“I think I’m more physical,” he said. “I think last year, I was not as physical as I am now. My technique has gotten better. Those things will help me go a long way.”
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris called Clowney “the best player in college football.” But be that as it may, that does not mean the Tigers will throw away their playbook and bring in a new one to try and counter what he and the rest of the Gamecocks are doing.
“That’s the worst thing we could do,” he said. “They are not going to change anything up. We are not going to change anything up. You have to be who you are. Again, it comes down to making plays. We have to go make the plays and we have to execute.
“They have beaten us the last four years. We have to go play.”
And watch out for the Boogeyman, too.