Jadeveon Clowney entered the college football season regarded as by far the best player in the sport, a lock to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the NFL, and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. But in the mind of most people, the all-world defensive lineman has disappointed this season. Part of that is because he hasn’t made the huge plays that got him national recognition in the first place — like his massive hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith. Part of it might be because unlike quarterbacks, running backs and receivers who always have the ball, it’s harder to see the impact of a defensive lineman. But Clowney has legitimately given critics plenty of other reasons to doubt him this season.
There were questions about Clowney’s conditioning following South Carolina’s opener against North Carolina. Then there were questions about his desire after he sat out an early October game against Kentucky. And now we may have to add questions about his work ethic to the list.
In an interview with The New York Times, Clowney admitted that his practice habits weren’t very good last year.
“My practice habits have picked up way more than they did last year,” Clowney told The Times. “Last year, I really didn’t practice real hard. This year, I came in with a different mind-set, like I want to be that guy, I want to have no flaws in my game.”
There are certainly two takeaways from that. One, it’s great that Clowney wants to up his game and perfect himself as a player. That’s the type of thing you hear guys like LeBron say. On the other hand, it’s somewhat alarming that he wasn’t practicing really hard last year. Maybe that’s because he knew he was great and felt like he didn’t have to push himself.
I still think very highly of Clowney, but between this quote, his conditioning questions, and not playing against Kentucky, I don’t view him as a lock to be a Hall of Famer the way I did last year. He’s going to need to go to the right NFL team and have a coach who will push him to maximize his ability.
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