Jadeveon Clowney is a first-round NFL prospect.
There’s no denying that the 6-foot-6, 256-pound defensive end is an intimidating force for the South Carolina football team. If you don’t believe me, ask Vincent Smith … when he wakes up.
He has all the skill set to compete at the next level with one exception … he’s only a junior. NFL rules clearly prohibit players who are less than three years removed from graduating high school to leave college for the professional ranks.
It’s a rule that was put in place to guard not only the player, but the college game itself. However, it raises a interesting question: Should Clowney sit out the 2013-14 college football season?
That’s the question posed by Tom Sorenson of the Charlotte Observer. Sorenson believes that since the NFL won’t allow Clowney into this year’s NFL Draft, then he should sit out his entire junior season to avoid an injury that could jeopardize his future professional career.
According to Sorenson, Clowney need only look at his former teammate, Marcus Lattimore, as reason enough to make the move. As a freshman, Lattimore was one of the most explosive running backs in the country. He shredded SEC defenses and was well on his way to being a Heisman Trophy candidate.
That is before he tore his ACL against Tennessee in the eighth game of his sophomore season. After rehab, he returned to the Gamecocks only to tear another ACL in the 10th game of his junior year. He is now forgoing his final year of eligibility to move on to the NFL.
Sorenson wonders whether or not Clowney should just sign with an agent and then spend the next year working out to prepare for the NFL.
It’s an interesting question, but in my mind not valid one at this point.
The rule was established to help protect the players who may not have the physical skills or the mental ones to move on towards the NFL. Clearly in Clowney’s case, he has the tools for the next level, but he’s probably the exception to the rule.
For every Clowney, there are hundreds of guys who aren’t ready physically or mentally to make the jump to the pros despite what they think. If the NFL made an exception to the rule for someone like a Clowney, it would open the floodgates to the type of debate the NBA is currently dealing with when it comes to one-and-done players in college basketball.
In my mind, that’s one of the worst parts of college basketball and something college football wants no part of at this time.
Besides, there is no guarantee that sitting out a whole season voluntarily would help your chances in the NFL Draft. In most cases, it would probably hurt them. Scouts want to see what you can do in game situations, no practices drills at the local college. No matter how much you work out and run sprints, there is nothing that equals game time experience.
Then there’s the question of character. If I’m an NFL scout, I would have serious problems with a player selfishly sitting out a season only to protect his body from injury just to make money at the NFL level. It says to me that money is more important than team.
Finally, who’s to say that Clowney or any player who would consider such a move, wouldn’t injure themselves some other way. I’ve seen way too many players tear up ACLs just in seven-on-seven drills or even stepping out of the shower in the morning. It’s a risk we all take.
It’s an interesting discussion and one that I’m sure had message boards across the country in a tizzy.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier even addressed it, telling the AJC.com that "I hope he plays this year, and I certainly believe he should play."
“I wasn’t surprised by the media reaction to the idea because those guys have got to talk about something for three hours every day, and that’s something to talk about,” Spurrier added.
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