“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”
That is the mission statement of the Heisman Trust, word for word, from the Heisman webpage. Nowhere does it say “We will award the Heisman to the biggest, strongest, fastest, most athletic freak with a cool name.”
Why then is Jadaveon Clowney getting so much preseason Heisman hype?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you he isn’t one of the best defensives ends in the country, because he is. I’m not going to tell you that he isn’t among the best defensive payers in the country heading into the 2013, because he is. I am, however, going to tell you that there is nothing we’ve seen from Clowney outside of being big, strong and fast that tells me he should be considered a front-runner for an award that is supposed to be given to the best player in college football.
Let’s take a look at Clowney’s stats — which by the way are unofficial in the eyes of the NCAA — from the 2012 season. The South Carolina defensive end recorded 54 tackles and 13 sacks for the Gamecocks last year. Impressive numbers. sure. Enough to vault him into the Heisman conversation for the upcoming season? That I’m not so sure about.
The fact is, Clowney’s most impressive stat, his 13 sacks, was one that was equaled or eclipsed by four players in 2012 who are also returning for the 2013 season. Southern Cal’s Morgan Breslin, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy and Arizona State’s Will Sutton all recorded 13 sacks last year. UCLA’s Anthony Barr had 13.5.
SEC and Clowney supporters will counter those stats with the fact that Clowney plays in the SEC, a much tougher conference than those other four players compete in. Well, BYU was independent last year and in addition to his 13 sacks, Van Noy also had two interceptions. He returned one for a touchdown. Clowney had none. The other three all play in the PAC 12. If the SEC is the toughest conference, the PAC 12 is No. 2. Most college fans will agree with that. On that note, Anthony Barr played for a team who made it to their conference title game. Clowney did not. All three PAC 12 players also had more tackles than Clowney.
In addition those facts, it’s not like all of his sacks and tackles came against the best competition. Of his 13 sacks, only 6.5 came against the SEC — less than one a game. In South Carolina’s bowl game against Michigan, he didn’t register a sack. In addition to that monster hit that ESPN seems to have on a 24/7 loop, Clowney made four other tackles on a relatively quiet day. He was matched up against Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, who made Clowney look quite human most of that afternoon. Maybe Lewan should have some Heisman hype heading into 2013.
When you get right down to it, it would appear that Clowney is a preseason Heisman candidate because he looks the part. As I stated before, he’s big, strong, fast and athletic. He plays in the SEC. Jay Z wants to sign him. All of that is great, but does it merit the type of Heisman hype that no other defensive player in college football history has ever garnered before the season began?
I’m just not so sure.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JULY 29, 2013
Follow @JPScottSports on Twitter.