|David Manning-USA TODAY Sports|
|South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney intends to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.|
Not that there was any suspense left after his coach joked about a limo driving him away from the Capital One Bowl, but South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney confirmed in an on-field postgame interview with ABC what has long been assumed.
"Yes sir," Clowney responded when asked if he will enter the 2014 NFL Draft, following the Gamecocks' 34-24 win over Wisconsin. Clowney closed his career with a strong effort against the Badgers, making five tackles, one for a loss, with two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.
After the game, Clowney discussed his future at length. A video of his comments, posted by GoGamecocks.com, can be viewed below:
The Gamecocks' star junior figures to be among the top picks of the first round with physical tools (6-foot-6, 275 pounds, sub-4.5 speed) that will translate well at the next level. Scouts have questioned Clowney's mental toughness and maturity, however, something he'll no doubt have to answer for at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.
Jerry Angelo, who spent 11 years as the Chicago Bears' general manager, suggested that questions surrounding Clowney's character are less of an issue because of the position he plays.
"Something people don't know: In the NFL, character at some positions is less or more important than it is at other positions. In Clowney's case, character is less important, because of what he does," said Angelo in a sulia.com post. "Because what he does has rare value and coaches and personnel people alike, will compromise -- and in some cases prostitute -- character for his pass rush prowess. If he were an offensive lineman or quarterback and some other positions, his character could affect his draft status. Because those positions require a higher degree of fiber."
In his latest review of each NFL club's draft needs, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah identified five clubs with top-10 draft picks who have a need at Clowney's defensive end position: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills.
Clowney established himself as an elite NFL prospect as a sophomore, when he tallied 13.5 sacks for the Gamecocks and built a reputation as the most disruptive defender in college football. His production dropped to just three sacks this year, but he remains regarded among the elite prospects for the 2014 draft.
Jeremiah wrote Wednesday that he would be very surprised if Clowney isn't the first defender selected in the draft.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.