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Scouting Report
Following a magnificent sophomore season - one highlighted by the famous helmet-dislodging hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl - Clowney was seemingly a shoe-in to be the top pick in the draft upon eligibility. But then came a perplexing junior season that left some debating his work ethic and desire. Although some questions still swirl, it's going to be difficult for an NFL team to pass up on one of the most athletic and imposing defensive ends to come out of college in years. Clowney possesses an amazing combination of quickness, power, size and intensity. He has a bevy of pass-rush moves and can easily blow by offensive linemen with his speed. Clowney finished 2012 sixth in Heisman Trophy voting, was a first-team All-American and the SEC defensive player of the year. He had 54 tackles and set South Carolina records with 13 sacks and 23 1/2 tackles for loss. The expectations were sky high one season later, but he finished with just 40 tackles, three sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for loss. Some of the drop in production had to do with offenses routinely double- and even triple-teaming him, and opposing teams routinely adjusting their game plan to combat his pass rush. He also wasn't completely healthy. A reoccurrence of bone spurs in his right foot - a problem he's had since high school - regularly bothered him, and he pulled out of a game against Kentucky shortly before kickoff due to strained rib muscles. That move even surprised coach Steve Spurrier and sparked a weeklong debate about Clowney's commitment. Some critics insisted that he would take plays off because he was more concerned with protecting his draft stock than helping South Carolina win. Just before the start of the scouting combine, Spurrier told NFL Network that Clowney's work ethic was "OK." The combine was an opportunity for Clowney to quiet his critics, but an uneven performance left more questions. The highlight was a 4.53 40-yard dash - the fastest by a defensive lineman - but he managed just 21 reps in the bench press, tied for 32nd among defensive linemen. Clowney has also had a couple of run-ins with the law, receiving two speeding tickets in a three-week span in December - one of them for going 110 mph in a 70 mph zone. Now it's up to a general manager to decide if the player he watched in 2013 is the same one he saw in 2012 and can be someone a top-notch defense can be built around.