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James Franklin: Clowney's a 'once-in-a-lifetime talent'

Penn State coach James Franklin at least had an angle with the Julius Peppers plan.

As the wide receivers coach at Maryland, Franklin was in on the Terps' game plan to block Peppers while he was terrorizing quarterbacks in his final two seasons at North Carolina. But in scheming a plan for South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney as the head coach at Vanderbilt the last two years, absolutely nothing worked.

Franklin can talk more freely about Clowney's talents now that he's left the SEC, and did just that with mmqb.si.com.

"With Peppers, we always felt like you were better off running at him, not away. He was so athletic, he could run you down," Franklin said. "I remember two years ago, we took the same approach with Clowney. We said we're going to try to get him to rush up the field and then get a guard or somebody to kick him out and then that would be a great plan. I'll tell you what: He destroyed us. Physically destroyed us. Running at him, running away from him."

Potentially the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans, Clowney would do well to have a pro career that matched or even approached that of Peppers. In 12 NFL seasons, he's averaged nearly 10 sacks per year, and with 29.5 over the last three years, his career hasn't flashed early and faded late.

Rather, it's been steady.

Which begets the question on Clowney for the Texans and any other club drafting early in the first round: How steady will his pro production be when he was anything but steady in dropping from 13.5 sacks in 2012 to just three in his last season at South Carolina? In his defense, Franklin called Clowney the "most game-planned against player in the country."

"He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent," Franklin added. "Although people are going to look at the film and say it's a risk, it may be a risk worth taking."

The Carolina Panthers took the Peppers risk with the No. 2 overall pick in 2002.

The Clowney risk may be taken even sooner than that.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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