NCF On The Trail: Jadeveon Clowney

With such a talented group of players on one list, the Ultimate ESPN 300, it was difficult to narrow things to three favorites. After all, these are some of the best ever to play college football. With that being said, here are three of my favorites:

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesFew players have come off the edge like Jadeveon Clowney in his South Carolina heyday.
1. I've covered recruiting for several years, but watching defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (No. 1) go up against offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio at the 2011 Under Armour All-America game and practices was something I'll never forget. Clowney is the best athlete I have seen, and watching him go up against another five-star prospect was incredible.

Kouandjio more than held his own that week against the top player in the country, but there was no doubt Clowney was on another level. Clowney went on to have an incredible career at South Carolina, and who could forget the devastating hit he laid on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl?

2. Quarterback Tim Tebow (No. 2), with his unusual throwing mechanics and bruising style of play, had his doubters coming out of high school. Tebow, however, went on to have one of the most prolific careers in the history of college football by winning two national championships, two SEC championships and a Heisman Trophy.

To sum up Tebow's leadership ability and team-first mentality, I recall watching Tebow's high school team, Nease, play in the Florida state championship game against Armwood High School. Armwood had the ball and was driving for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown and a defensive lineman for Nease had to leave the game because of an injury. Tebow races out to the field and lines up at nose tackle. Though he didn't make the play, Nease won, and it displayed what kind of person he was. He was willing to do whatever it took to help his team win, and that's how he played throughout his college career.

3. Running back Derrick Henry's (No. 202) high school team, Yulee, didn't play in a very strong division in Florida, so the ridiculous stats (11,182 rushing yards and 153 rushing TDs) Henry put up in his high school career seemed to be somewhat inflated.

Henry's senior season, I had a chance to watch Yulee take on Belle Glade Glades Day School, which had Kelvin Taylor (No. 174), another five-star running back. I assumed that because of Henry's size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) he would likely move to another position on the next level. But after watching him play in person and seeing how athletic and nimble he was, Henry convinced me he had the tools to be a top running back. Watching both running backs rush for more than 200 yards on the night and seeing two future stars at their brightest was one of the most memorable games I've ever had a chance to cover.
It’s always fun to look into the history books to see how certain players lived up to their rankings. With signing day fewer than 24 hours away, here’s a look at the last five No. 1 and where I think they would rank stacked up against each other.


BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: The word freak purposely doesn't get thrown around a lot in recruiting circles, because it can quickly become cliché. But after dominating during the SPARQ testing Tuesday, there should be no problem giving that label to five-star defensive end Josh Sweat. Plus, an Alabama commitment made the play of the day with a one-handed catch.


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Video: Comparing Garrett to Clowney

March, 3, 2014
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National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert explains the ways in which Texas A&M signee Myles Garrett resembles NFL draft prospect Jadeveon Clowney on the field.

All-SEC: Where they stood as recruits

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On the eve of national signing day, it's always fun to go back and examine where the top players in the SEC from this past season were ranked coming out of high school.

Of the 23 position players who made the 2013 ESPN.com All-SEC team, seven were three-star prospects, according to the ESPN Recruiting Nation rankings. The only five-star prospects were Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Beth Hall/USA TODAY SportsJadeveon Clowney was one of only two five-star recruits on the 2013 ESPN.com All-SEC team.
Even more telling, only eight of the 23 players were ranked among the top 10 players at their respective positions.

Of note, Vanderbilt's record-setting Jordan Matthews was ranked as the No. 153 receiver, Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson was the No. 125 offensive tackle, Arkansas' Travis Swanson was the No. 91 offensive guard, Missouri's Michael Sam was the No. 75 defensive end and LSU's Lamin Barrow was the No. 82 outside linebacker.

Here's a closer look:

OFFENSE
  • QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Three stars, No. 39 QB, Class of 2011. Grade: 78.
  • RB Tre Mason, Auburn: Four stars, No. 21 RB, Class of 2011. Grade: 79.
  • RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Four stars, No. 55 overall prospect, No. 4 RB, Class of 2012. Grade: 81.
  • WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Three stars, No. 52 WR, Class of 2011. Grade: 79.
  • WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: Three stars, No. 153 WR, Class of 2010. Grade: 74.
  • AP Odell Beckham Jr., LSU: Three stars, No. 62 athlete, Class of 2011. Grade: 78.
  • TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia: No. 7 TE, Class of 2009. Grade: 79.
  • OL Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State: No. 125 OT, Class of 2009. Grade: 74.
  • OL Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama: Five stars, No. 3 overall prospect, No. 1 OT, Class of 2011. Grade: 87.
  • OL Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: Four stars, No. 90 overall prospect. No. 7 OT, Class of 2010. Grade: 81.
  • OL Greg Robinson, Auburn: Four stars, No. 10 OG, Class of 2011. Grade: 80.
  • C Travis Swanson, Arkansas: No. 91 OG, Class of 2009. Grade: 76.
DEFENSE
  • DL Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: Five stars, No. 1 overall prospect, No. 1 DE, Class of 2011. Grade: 95.
  • DL Dee Ford, Auburn: No. 35 DE, Class of 2009. Grade: 79.
  • DL Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina: Four stars, No. 124 overall prospect, No. 11 DT, Class of 2010. Grade: 81.
  • DL Michael Sam, Missouri: No. 75 DE, Class of 2009. Grade: 76.
  • LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia: Four stars, No. 11 ILB, Class of 2011. Grade: 79.
  • LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Four stars, No. 99 overall prospect, No. 7 OLB, Class of 2010. Grade: 81.
  • LB Lamin Barrow, LSU: No. 82 OLB, Class of 2009. Grade: 76.
  • DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama: Four stars, No. 19 overall prospect, No. 2 S, Class of 2011. Grade: 84.
  • DB E.J. Gaines, Missouri: Three stars, No. 57 CB, Class of 2010. Grade: 76.
  • DB: Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt: Three stars, No. 43 S, Class of 2010. Grade: 78.
  • DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss: Three stars, No. 78 athlete, Class of 2011. Grade: 77.

Ultimate 300: SEC’s top recruits 

January, 29, 2014
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The ESPN Ultimate 300 looks back at the best recruits since 2006, and it’s hardly surprising that the SEC made its presence felt in the rankings.

Here’s a look at the top five SEC recruits in the Ultimate ESPN 300:


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Top five defensive end comparisons 

November, 7, 2013
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As each and every new evaluation period begins for our staff, we always try to use today’s college football stars and apply some of their best traits when describing the next generation of prospects. All prospects are different from one another, but many share similar characteristics that stand out in relation to their styles. In this edition of the series, we take a look at the top five defensive ends in the 2014 class and which college players they remind us of at this time.

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#AskLoogs: Hand vs. Clowney

September, 27, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



No. On pure ability, we haven’t seen anyone the last eight years with his talent level, not even Robert Nkemdiche although he is a very, very close second. Da’Shawn Hand is a talented prospect, but is not blessed with the same stature or foot speed as Clowney. Hand is a hybrid player dependent upon scheme. If he were to attend Alabama or Florida we don’t feel he’d be a fulltime down lineman, we think he’d be a rush linebacker (Star or Jack) in a multiple 3-man front look. If he were to attend Michigan, we feel he would be a fulltime defensive end. However, he plays the position from a down stance much more like a 5-technique than a 9-technique yet he does not have the physical bulk yet to hold up as a five on an every down basis. Our concern with Hand has always been pad level and hip tightness. He is not an overly flexible lineman. His strengths are power, great hands and the ability to collapse the pocket. He is very strong. At some point he is going to bulk up into a 260-pound guy or more and then he might fit nicely as a 5-technique.

UA jersey tour: Derick Roberson

September, 25, 2013
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ESPN 300 defensive end Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan High) was presented his honorary game jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game on Sept. 19. The event was part of the three-month selection tour for the Under Armour All-America Game.

Roberson, a Texas commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised all-star game spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The game is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“I would like to thank my coaches, my teammates, my teachers and my family for supporting me,” Roberson said. “I would also like to thank God.”

Watching past players in the Under Armour All-America Game such as Jadeveon Clowney had a major impact on Roberson’s decision to choose the prestigious game.

“It means a lot, especially because I’ve been looking up to this game since I was little,” Roberson said. “I accepted the invitation because I’ve been looking forward to this game. I remember watching Jadeveon Clowney. We have pretty similar sack records, so it’s pretty cool.”

The chance to receive coaching from former NFL coaches is also something Roberson is looking forward to.

“I’m looking for to being coached up by some of the top coaches, and get some more coaching.” Roberson said.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Roberson is the No. 79 overall prospect, and the No. 8 defensive end in the class. He committed to Texas over Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, among others.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



If you are just basing your opinion on pure talent, rare skill and unique measurables then yes, Jadeveon Clowney is superior to all others over the past eight high school classes we have evaluated. I’m not convinced, though, that Clowney was the most polished or ready to play at the time. Keep in mind, when Clowney entered college he was about 240 pounds and, as incredibly talented as he was as a pass rusher, he could be neutralized fairly easily. Teams ran right at him during his freshman year, and he had a hard time anchoring at the point of attack. He was a technically raw player and while he has improved in this area, he still is inconsistent when it comes to using his hands and having a plan on every down with a counter to that plan as well.

I would argue that Robert Nkemdiche is much more polished and college ready at the same stage but isn’t blessed with the rare measurables and pure talent Clowney has, but it is really close. WR Julio Jones, WR A.J. Green and 2014 recruits RB Leonard Fournette and OT Cameron Robinson are up there with Clowney and Nkemdiche in my opinion as being among the best we have evaluated.

Florida: 2014 prospects to watch 

February, 7, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With signing day 2013 having wrapped up, it's time to turn our attention to 2014 recruits. Here are five players Florida will be targeting for next year's class:


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Tommy Sanders to announce Wednesday 

December, 18, 2012
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Four-star outside linebacker Tommy Sanders (Cordele, Ga./Butler Community College) will likely be No. 20 or No. 34 on Wednesday.

That’s the 20th commit for either Ohio State or South Carolina or No. 34 for Texas A&M in the Class of 2013 after he makes his announcement.


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