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CFN Analysis: The Clowney Decision
Send in Mr. Clowney
Send in Mr. Clowney
CollegeFootballNews
Posted Feb 14, 2011


In what had come to resemble a bit of a circus, the nation's No 1 prep football player committed Monday to South Carolina and Steve Spurrier. What does this mean for the teams involved, and recruiting/our sport in general?


By: Russ Mitchell

We’ll table for a moment the absolute circus that became the recruitment/commitment of the aptly named Jadeveon Clowney, and instead focus on what this means for the teams involved.

Rated by many as the top prep player in the nation, Clowney had made it clear last week he intended to stay in-state. So with the Tide out of the picture, the real drama was between Clemson (and the ACC) and South Carolina (and the SEC). In making his choice, Clowney pointed to several ex-teammates now playing for the Gamecocks as a determining factor.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR SOUTH CAROLINA

While Clowney will certainly see the field in 2011, don’t necessarily pencil him in as a starter right out of the gate. The Gamecocks return two upperclassmen at DE in uber-talented Devin Taylor (Jr.) and Cliff Matthews (Sr.), along with seniors behind them (Byron McKnight & Melvin Ingram).

Still, with 30 more pounds and a year’s maturity, many scouts believe Jadeveon would be ready for the NFL. Steve Spurrier and crew are getting themselves a difference maker who should fit early and nicely into Ellis Johnson’s 4-3 defense.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ALABAMA

Under Nick Saban, the Capstone has become a master collector of college football talent, particularly on defense. While no squad would refuse a talent like Clowney, of the three teams the Tide are least likely to be hurt by his decision not to play in Tuscaloosa.

Already sporting All-SEC talent at DE, 2011’s haul at the position was hardly a consolation prize. Alabama landed three prep DEs ranked in the top 15 in the nation (including a Carolinian of their own in highly regarded Jeoffrey Pagan). 2009 top recruit Quinton Dial also arrived from a JC stint, and is already on campus preparing for spring ball.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR CLEMSON

With All-American Da'Quan Bowers forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft, and lacking the position depth of Bama, Clemson needed Clowney more than the Tide; perhaps even more than the Gamecocks. Additionally, given the dynamics of in-state recruiting, this likely stings a bit more for the Tigers.

However, Clemson landed perhaps its best signing class in 20 years this February, including JC transfer DE Corey Crawford, who should start paying dividends early.

WHAT THIS CIRCUS SAYS ABOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Now it was his turn to wait.

The pomp and circumstance ending, Clowney stood before a raucous home crowd bursting at the seams on his every word. However, Jadeveon instead waited awkwardly at the podium, as an ESPN producer notified him that while he and the crowd were ready, the network had decided to run another commercial set.

Entertainment before Sports isn’t just an acronym.

ESPN college football analyst David Pollack (no stranger himself to playing DE in the SEC) had the best line of the day when describing the setting, “If you hated the LeBron (James) "Decision" (should) you hate what Clowney is doing today on Sportscenter?”

Forget for a minute that year in and year out, virtually half of the can’t miss prep players… miss.

Forget that on-line recruiting sites use suspect ranking “formulas” that often benefit the teams with the highest subscriber bases.

Forget that we rarely look back and evaluate the effect of these classes (see Tennessee, 2009 – all six of the ESPN Top 150 players in that class are no longer on campus in Knoxville).

Clowney may in fact be the next coming of Jason Taylor (other than that Taylor himself went way, way under the radar as a prep), and like everyone we wish him the best at South Carolina.

However, this made-for-tv recruiting spectacle is bordering on the macabre. One could argue it has the effect of ratcheting expectations past their already unhealthy levels for players, coaches and schools. It may also be part of the reason why we are dealing with over-signing issues, as the hype of incoming freshman displaces “unfulfilled” potential.

It has been said that America is a nation that focuses perhaps too heavily on her youth. Never is this claim more accurate than when it comes to the shady world of college football recruiting.



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