There have been a ton of questions concerning Clowney, including his work ethic, focus and what motivates him. But he's easily the most explosive defender in this draft, and his 40 time will likely ensure his going in the top five.
Clowney did 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press on Sunday, which wasn't a big number. But with his long arms, that's not a huge concern.
Here's a look at how some of the other SEC players have fared so far at the combine:
Auburn DE Dee Ford: Ford made big news with something he said. He took a swipe at Clowney, saying the Gamecocks' defensive end "played like a blind dog in a meat market." Ford, who had 10.5 sacks last season, didn't work out Monday because of unspecified medical reasons. ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold reported that Ford was dealing with a lower back issue.
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel: Electing not to throw at the combine, Manziel measured in at 5-11 3/4, but has huge hands for a guy his size (9 7/8 inches). Manziel's official 40 time was 4.68.
Auburn OT Greg Robinson: His official 40 time was a 4.92, which is staggering for a 6-5, 332-pound offensive tackle. He also did 32 reps on the bench press. Robinson obviously made the right call in coming out early because he's going to be the first or second tackle taken.
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews: Measuring 6-3 and weighing 212 pounds, Matthews put to rest any questions about his speed and turned in a 4.46 in the 40.
Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief: Moncrief helped himself with a 4.4 40-yard dash time, as did South Carolina's Bruce Ellington with a 4.45.
Below are some other 40 times of SEC players (official times):
- LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr. -- 4.43
- Missouri RB Henry Josey -- 4.43
- Mississippi State RB LaDarius Perkins -- 4.46
- Missouri WR L'Damian Washington -- 4.46
- Alabama WR Kevin Norwood -- 4.48
- Auburn RB Tre Mason -- 4.5
- Texas A&M WR Mike Evans -- 4.53
- Florida TE Trey Burton -- 4.62
- LSU RB Jeremy Hill -- 4.66
- South Carolina QB Connor Shaw -- 4.66
- LSU WR Jarvis Landry -- 4.77
- Georgia TE Arthur Lynch -- 4.82
- LSU OL Trai Turner -- 4.93
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron -- 4.94
- Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews -- 5.07
- Vanderbilt OT Wesley Johnson -- 5.11
- Tennessee OG Zach Fulton -- 5.16
- Arkansas C Travis Swanson -- 5.28
- Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson -- 5.3
- Tennessee OT Ja'Wuan James -- 5.34
- Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson -- 5.51
- Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio -- 5.59
Spring football is right around the corner and with it comes new faces, fresh starts and, of course, plenty of questions surrounding some of the nation's top programs.
From who will take over for Johnny Football at Texas A&M to whether Art Briles and Co. can continue their winning ways at Baylor, there's a lot of intrigue heading into the 2014 campaign.
While many of these questions will not be fully answered until the fall, here are five of the biggest ones across the college football landscape as we head into the spring.
1. Who takes over for Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans at Texas A&M?
There may be no bigger shoes in the country to fill in 2014 than the ones Johnny Football will leave behind in College Station. The 2012 Heisman winner was not only a great player, but his on- and off-field antics made him one of the faces of college football over the last couple of years.
We’re counting down the five most pressing questions facing the SEC this spring, in no particular order of importance. First, how do you replace all the veteran quarterbacks the league enjoyed in 2013?
When spring camps open over the next few weeks -- the first being Texas A&M on Friday -- that question will begin to be answered. With each snap and each team meeting, leaders will emerge. Some staffs will look for a winner heading into the summer so they can avoid a quarterback controversy come fall, while others will have to sweat it out through the offseason.
Texas A&M: Surprises will undoubtedly occur, as we saw only a few years ago when a scrappy freshman from Kerrville, Texas, beat out the presumptive favorite to land the starting job at Texas A&M. The Aggies stumbled upon Manziel, and Jameill Showers was quickly forgotten. Kenny Hill and Matt Joeckel are this year’s frontrunners, but they’ll have competition in another freshman nipping at their heels in Kyle Allen. The Arizona native is more of a pure passer than a running quarterback, but he has the tools to sling the ball around in Kevin Sumlin’s offense.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier didn’t mince words when he saidDylan Thompson is “without question going to be our quarterback.” He even asked, “Why open it up when he’s the only one who’s played?” Thompson, a rising senior, doesn’t have the athleticism to break containment quite like Shaw, but Thompson can still move the chains with his feet when necessary. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound South Carolina native doesn’t lack for arm strength and might even have more pure throwing ability than Shaw. But where Thompson must match Shaw is intangibles. There wasn’t a more dynamic leader in the SEC than Shaw last year, and the Gamecocks will miss that kind of will power under center in 2014. While the starting job is Thompson’s to lose, don’t sleep on redshirt freshman Connor Mitch. The former four-star recruit could push Thompson this spring.
Missouri: The race to replace Franklin comes down to one quarterback and one quarterback alone: Maty Mauk. The rising redshirt sophomore showed last season that he can control the offense, starting four games in which he averaged 227.5 yards, 2.5 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions per game. More importantly, he won three of the four games with the only loss coming in double overtime against South Carolina. He’ll learn from that experience and take over a team that will be moving on from the loss of big-time playmakers Henry Josey, L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas. Having the ultra-talented Dorial Green-Beckham back will help, but an arrest on drug charges in January has clouded his future.
Georgia: Despite what wasn’t a great performance to end last season -- 21-of-39 for 320 yards, a touchdown and an interception against Nebraska -- Hutson Mason is still the overwhelming favorite to replace Murray. Why? Because Mark Richt and the coaching staff have essentially been grooming Mason to take over for years now, redshirting him in 2012 so he would have a year left to play in 2014. Mason was once a three-star quarterback who put up huge numbers running the spread at Lassiter High School in nearby Marietta, and with Todd Gurley behind him, he won’t be asked to do too much his first year starting. While he might be a year away, don’t write off Faton Bauta just yet. The 6-3, 216-pound redshirt sophomore has impressed the staff with his work ethic and could find his way into some playing time.
Alabama: Oddly enough, the quarterback many presume will take over for McCarron won’t actually arrive until the summer. Jacob Coker, the heralded transfer from Florida State, will be a little late finishing his degree in Tallahassee, which leaves a big opportunity for the rest of Alabama’s quarterbacks to make a first impression. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will instead have his focus on Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Parker McLeod and Cooper Bateman this spring. Sims, who best fits the mold of a run-first quarterback, has a lot of work ahead of him to prove he can play from the pocket. Morris, meanwhile, didn’t get much time as a redshirt freshman last season and needs to improve his decision-making from the last time we saw him at A-Day. Bateman and McLeod are relative unknowns after redshirting last season, but Bateman, a four-star recruit, does come with a lofty pedigree. The wild card is David Cornwell, the four-star recruit who enrolled in January and will benefit from the fresh start all of the quarterbacks will get under Kiffin.
Those who have paid close attention to Kevin Sumlin's history with quarterbacks know one thing is certain when it comes to picking a new starter: Patience is required.
Since Sumlin's head coaching career began in 2008, he has overseen two preseason starting quarterback competitions. One constant existed in both: The starter wasn't picked until midway through fall training camp.
We can attempt to glean clues from spring football practice, which the Aggies begin on Friday, but if you think the heir apparent to Manziel will lay claim to the quarterback throne in April once Texas A&M wraps up spring drills, you'll be disappointed.
This quarterback race will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen will take the field in the coming weeks, battling it out for the right to succeed A&M's second Heisman Trophy winner.
As they rotate repetitions with the first-team offense and showcase their skills during practices and scrimmages, it will be easy to make assumptions based on their performances. Player X leads, Player Y needs to improve in these areas, etc.
But if the last battle Sumlin and his staff oversaw was any indication, it's unwise to base entire opinions on spring football. Many believed that Jameill Showers led Manziel in the race to become the starting quarterback in 2012 based on their respective spring performances. While that might have even been true, it didn't mean it was Showers' job. As we all know now, Manziel made enough improvement over the summer that when training camp arrived in August, he earned the confidence of the offensive coaching staff and was ultimately tabbed the starter roughly two weeks before the Aggies opened the season. Showers became the backup, and Manziel went on to make history.
Sumlin even seemed to take pleasure in letting the media know that "I didn't name a starter [after spring]; y'all did."
Spavital has even said, flatly, that the timeline for announcing a starter will be the same as it has been in Sumlin's recent history.
"We're not going to announce until the fall, a week and a half, two weeks before the game," Spavital told ESPN.com earlier this month.
All three quarterbacks will get a fair shot. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, which have been documented well. Joeckel brings size and experience, Hill brings a dual-threat ability and history of competing in an up-tempo, spread-style attack, and Allen brings the physical tools coaches look for in a quarterback as well as leadership qualities, even though he's the youngest and greenest of the group.
It will be a long spring and summer as Aggies wait for the competition to play out. The result, no matter what it is, will be full of intrigue.
- As usual, Johnny Manziel is at the center of the football universe. His height and hand size were all the talk after Friday's measurements at the NFL scouting combine. Manziel reached out to Tom Brady last week for advice on handling the combine spotlight. Brett Favre weighed in and said Johnny Football reminds him of "a young Brett Favre." Count San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh among those in the NFL who are similarly impressed with Manziel.
- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is optimistic the the pace of play rule will pass. Many detractors, including Georgia coach Mark Richt, have demanded hard evidence that the rule is necessary. Bielema on Thursday cited the recent death of Cal's Ted Agu during a training run as such evidence. Of course, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier weighed in, calling it the "[Nick] Saban Rule." Spurrier said on Thursday that the rule "looks like it's dead now, hopefully."
- LSU quarterback Stephen Rivers plans to graduate, transfer and play for a new team this fall.
- Alabama has a school-record 12 players invited to the NFL scouting combine. Quarterback AJ McCarron is among those who will participate in full workouts.
- After having 11 players at the combine a year ago, Georgia will be represented by just one -- TE Arthur Lynch -- this weekend. QB Aaron Murray, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL less than three months ago, will be there just to chat.
- Florida's medical and strength staff is helping its many injured players making strides in their return to full health.
- Mississippi State and Ole Miss have a total of three prospects at the NFL combine.
- Relaxed, focused Missouri tailback Henry Josey is among the players at the NFL combine.
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.
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Texas A&M has several areas where it needs improvement or will have to replace an outgoing veteran who was productive and reliable. Spring practice is a place where those things can be accomplished.
But for all the new faces and position battles that will ensue, there's one that Aggies will watch the closest: quarterback.
The battle will include three primary candidates: senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen.
Joeckel and Hill battled for the backup quarterback job -- and the right to start a game -- last fall while Manziel was under investigation by the NCAA for allegations that he profited from signing autographs. When Manziel was suspended for the first half of the season opener against Rice, Joeckel got the starting nod. He was solid, completing 14-of-19 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in two quarters of play. For the season, Joeckel, the twin brother of former A&M left tackle and current Jacksonville Jaguar Luke Joeckel, was 22-of-37 for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in four games of action.
At 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, Joeckel doesn't feature the mobility of a dual-threat quarterback, but he's an accurate passer. He has also been in Texas A&M's offense longer than any other quarterback on the roster.
"He's the most experienced out of all of them in terms of running this offense," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said. "I was pleased with how he handled himself."
Hill, a Southlake (Texas) Carroll product, also received playing time during the 2013 season, even though he didn't get to appear against Rice. In five games, he was 16-of-22 passing for 183 yards and a touchdown and showed well in his college debut, which came in the second half of a blowout win over Sam Houston State.
Hill, a 6-1, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback, has a lot of experience in spread, uptempo offenses and has made positive strides in practices throughout last fall.
"Bowl preparation was good for him," Spavital said. "When Johnny was gone at awards shows it gave him a chance to run with the [first team] and get used to them. He has come a long way."
Allen comes in with plenty of credentials for a high school prospect. He was the No. 1 pocket passer in the country and has good size at 6-3 and 200 pounds. Spavital said he was impressed with how Allen handled himself publicly, his intelligence and his physical gifts.
"His playmaking ability, he has a very strong arm, a quick release," Spavital said. "He has a hell of an arm."
All eyes are on the quarterback anyways, but when these three begin competing, Aggies everywhere will be paying attention.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Johnny Manziel should be long gone by the time the Dallas Cowboys pick 16th in the first round in May, but the team will meet with the Texas A&M quarterback during the NFL scouting combine.
Manziel is among the Cowboys' 60 official interviews in Indianapolis and will meet with the team's coaches and scouts Friday night, according to a source.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said earlier in the offseason that the Cowboys will not use an early pick on a quarterback, in part because of their commitment to Tony Romo, who signed a six-year, $106 million extension last year, however, that will not stop the Cowboys from doing their due diligence on draft prospects.
At the combine on Friday, Manziel measured just one-quarter of an inch short of 6 feet. He came in at 5-11¾ at 207 pounds with 9 7/8-inch hands.
In 2011, the Cowboys met with Cam Newton, who was the first pick in the draft by the Carolina Panthers. They had the No. 9 pick in the draft that year and took Tyron Smith.
Manziel attended a few Cowboys games at AT&T Stadium the past two years and spoke with coach Jason Garrett after one game.
"He's a great football player and someone I admire a great deal," Garrett said Thursday. "If you're a fan of football and you watch Texas A&M play, he's something else. He's done an amazing job in a short period of time during his career for that program. He's really fun to watch.
Who will be the top five offensive linemen in the league next season?
That's a tricky question because a lot can change between now and next fall, and offensive linemen all develop at different rates. For instance, did anybody have Auburn's Greg Robinson as the SEC's premier offensive lineman this time a year ago? Robinson exploded during the 2013 season and is now being projected by ESPN's Mel Kiper as the No. 2 overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft.
There's sure to be a player or two just like Robinson that really emerges next season. With that said, here's our early take on the SEC's top-5 offensive linemen going into the 2014 season. They're listed alphabetically:
La'el Collins, OT, LSU, Sr.: The Tigers breathed a sigh of relief, and with good reason, when the 6-5, 315-pound Collins decided to return for his senior season. He has everything it takes to be one of the most dominant left tackles in the college game. He was a second-team All-SEC selection last season by the coaches and started his LSU career at guard.
Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn, Sr.: A starter for the Tigers since the day he walked onto campus, the 6-3, 297-pound Dismukes is the class of a deep and talented center crop in the SEC next season. He's tough, smart and has the kind of nasty streak coaches love. Dismukes was a first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches last season and a big reason the Tigers led the country in rushing with an average of 328.3 yards per game.
Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M, Sr.: When you start listing the top offensive tackles in college football, don't forget about Ogbuehi. He'll be moving from right tackle to left tackle to replace Jake Matthews and has already proven that he's a top run-blocker and pass-protector at both guard and tackle. The 6-5, 300-pound Ogbuehi is an exceptional athlete and came back for his senior season despite receiving a first round grade from the NFL draft advisory board.
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, So.: Even though the 6-5, 315-pound Tunsil is the youngest of this group, he might have the most pure talent. He took over the Rebels' left tackle duties last season as a true freshman and started nine games, earning second-team All-SEC honors from the AP as well as freshman All-America honors. He allowed just one sack all year from his position, and with an entire offseason and spring workouts under his belt, he should take an even bigger step in 2014.
Five more to watch:
- David Andrews, C, Georgia, Sr.
- Dillon Day, C, Mississippi State, Sr.
- Chaz Green, OT, Florida, Sr.
- Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama, Jr.
- Corey Robinson, OT, South Carolina, Sr.
Though Texas A&M is saying goodbye to another likely top-10 NFL draft pick from its offensive line, the Aggies expect to have a strong unit up front once again in 2014.
That means there will be a battle for one spot on the offensive line: right tackle.
That’s where Ogbuehi lined up last season but he is making the transition to left tackle for the 2014 season. With the Aggies returning Harrison at left guard, Mike Matthews at center and Ifedi at right guard, one of the most-watched battles in spring football will be at right tackle.
The early contenders are likely to be two new prospects on campus: Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy. The pair of ESPN JC 50 prospects signed by the Aggies in their 2014 recruiting class were mid-term enrollees who have been on campus since classes began in January.
Gennesy, who signed from East Mississippi Community College, is 6-foot-5, 310, good size for the position, and he plays with good strength. The four-star prospect had several notable offers, including Tennessee, Ole Miss and Kentucky, as well as perennial powers from outside the SEC like Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Eluemunor, native of England, was also heavily-recruited nationally. With roughly two dozen offers, including ones from Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, Tennessee, USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-4, 315 pound four-star prospect can play both guard and tackle.
But those are not the only two options, especially if offensive line coach B.J. Anderson is willing to shuffle the offensive line up some. Ifedi, who checks in at 6-5, 311, would be an intriguing possibility to slide from right guard to right tackle. Harrison, who played two games at left tackle when Ogbuehi was injured last season and Matthews flipped to right tackle briefly, has playing experience at a tackle position, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to move Harrison over to right tackle.
In those instances, that would mean a potential new starter at one of the guard positions. Ben Compton, the backup at center last season, would be a potential option to compete for the right guard spot and Garrett Gramling, who started two games in Harrison’s place at left guard when Harrison slid to left tackle, would make sense if the Aggies moved Harrison to tackle for the season.
Joseph Cheek, a 6-7, 300-pound junior, was second on the Aggies’ depth chart at right tackle last season behind Ogbuehi and would be another name to keep in mind if the coaching staff isn’t satisfied with the aforementioned names.
But for now, with spring practice slightly more than a week away, look for Eluemunor and Gennesy to be the first players to get a shot at the starting job at right tackle. It should make for an interesting competition.
But starting next week, with Texas A&M opening spring practice on Friday, it's full speed ahead to the 2014 season. Texas A&M will be the first of the SEC schools to start spring ball. With the ongoing expansion and renovation to Kyle Field, the Aggies won't have a traditional spring game and will hold their final practice of the spring on April 5.
The other 13 SEC schools will all crank up spring practice sometime in March, so we'll all get our football fix soon enough.
Below is a listing of the spring practice start dates and spring game dates for all 14 SEC schools.
My ESPN colleague Travis Haney has listed his 10 most intriguing quarterback battles of the spring, and four of them involve SEC schools.
No. 1 on his list is USC, but he has Texas A&M No. 2 and Alabama No. 3. Tennessee (No. 5) and Florida (No. 9) are also in his top 10.
With Johnny Manziel headed to the NFL, everybody will be watching to see who fills his shoes at Texas A&M. Kenny Hill and Matt Joeckel are the favorites, but early enrollee freshman Kyle Allen has a lot of game.
Replacing AJ McCarron at Alabama obviously is not going to be a walk in the park. The leader in the clubhouse probably isn't on campus yet. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker will arrive this summer.
At Tennessee, it's a big spring for redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson, who probably would have played last season had he not been injured, but I also wouldn't count out senior Justin Worley.
And at Florida, Jeff Driskel is back after missing most of last season with an injury. The best news for him is that first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper knows his stuff when it comes to developing quarterbacks.
- New Georgia assistant coach Mike Ekeler wrote a letter thanking his many friends in the Nebraska program (among others) who helped him land a job on Mark Richt's staff.
- Matt Hayes of the Sporting News writes that conspiracy theories related to Nick Saban's alleged fears over up-tempo offenses are ridiculous.
- Auburn has several vacancies on its support staff after five analysts left for other jobs during the offseason.
- Jeremy Darveau will join Florida's staff as assistant offensive line coach.
- It appears as though Kentucky assistant Bradley Dale Peveto will return to LSU, where he was previously an assistant coach under Les Miles for four seasons.
- Ole Miss' Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche are among the Ole Miss athletes being sued for $2 million in relation to a fight at a fraternity party last year.
- Police dropped charges against Auburn signee Kalvaraz Bessent, but coach Gus Malzahn said he hasn't decided on how to proceed with Bessent.
- Malzahn said Tuesday that the proposed NCAA rules change aimed at slowing down hurry-up offenses would “change the dynamics of football.”
- Arkansas senior associate head coach Randy Shannon received a big pay bump to $400,000 annually.
- Watch the Tennessean's time lapse video as artist Michael Cooper paints over James Franklin's face on a mural near the Vanderbilt campus and replaces it with new Commodores coach Derek Mason.
- Former Texas A&M punter Shane Lechler has been picked for induction into Texas' high school football hall of fame.
- South Carolina's Kelcy Quarles is hoping to “blow people's minds” with an outstanding showing at the NFL combine.
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.
Nationally (and Big Ten)
Ohio State continues to add speed and versatility, and the 2014 class was more of the same. The Buckeyes signed five athletes, and versatility was the name of the game. The Buckeyes' haul included potential corners to big wide receivers to safeties to speedy playmaking receivers and return men. The uber-impressive list includes future cornerback and ESPN 300 No. 45 Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville), No. 153 Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall), No. 178 Parris Campbell Jr. (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary), and four-star prospects Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII) and Malik Hooker (New Castle, Pa./New Castle).
The Buckeyes had the nation’s best athlete class; these programs had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:
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Sumlin Interested To See New QBs
6:00 PM ET Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss 9:15 PM ET Temple Vanderbilt
12:00 PM ET Tennessee-Martin Kentucky 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 3:30 PM ET South Dakota State Missouri 4:00 PM ET Arkansas Auburn 5:30 PM ET Clemson Georgia 7:00 PM ET Idaho Florida 7:30 PM ET Southern Miss Mississippi State 9:00 PM ET Wisconsin LSU