I first met Jadeveon Clowney on Nov. 5, 2010, in Columbia, S.C. He and his mother and father were in town for their recruiting trip to the University of South Carolina, and we were staying in the same hotel, the Carolina Inn. It gave me an opportunity to meet this young man and talk to him at length over the next couple of days.
The day after I met him we rode to Williams-Brice Stadium together to watch South Carolina's game against Arkansas. During those two days I spent some time talking to him about his career at South Point High School in Rock Hill, S.C. I was very impressed with him. He was only 17 at the time, but asked great questions and spoke very well.
The next fall, in September 2011, I received a phone call from Lincoln Riley, the offensive coordinator from East Carolina. Riley was excited to talk to me about two defensive linemen from South Carolina that his team had just played against the week before -- he called them "No. 6 and No. 7." He was referring to Melvin Ingram, who went on to become a first-round pick in the 2012 draft, and Clowney, who was a freshman. "You won't believe these two guys we played against," Riley said, telling me that his offense had difficulty against them all game long.
That game was the first of Clowney's college career, and against a pretty good team he had seven tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, which is pretty incredible, considering he was only 18 and just starting out. I continued to watch Clowney that year and the next year, when he was a sophomore, and was really impressed with what I saw from him.
After watching him this past season in the Gamecocks' opening game, a night game against North Carolina, I was disappointed because Clowney didn't look like he was in very good shape; he asked out of the game several times and didn't have a very good performance. In watching him throughout the rest of the season, he didn't play anywhere close to the level he had in 2011 and 2012.
Going forward, with the draft approaching, I hope that what we saw from Clowney in 2011 and 2012 is what we're going to get in the NFL -- not the one who was out of shape and recorded only three sacks last season.
The objective at Clowney's pro day Wednesday will be to try to find out which is the real Clowney: the one that we saw against East Carolina as a freshman or the one that played last season.
Here's a look at the pro-day events I'll be keeping an eye on this week:
South Carolina (Wednesday): I want to start by rewatching tape of South Carolina's game vs. East Carolina in 2011 to see how Clowney played in his first game as a true freshman. I also want to watch WR Bruce Ellington, who unofficially ran his 40-yard dash in under 4.3 seconds at the combine, and get a better look at quarterback Connor Shaw and his height measurement (6-0 1/8).
Washington (Thursday):Bishop Sankey is statistically the best RB in college football at breaking tackles. Can he be the first running back selected in the draft? I also want to find out more about TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins' off-field problems and make sure he is timed after he failed to run at the combine.
Miami (Thursday): I want to check the background of offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, who has had some off-field issues. I also want to see what kind of ability quarterback Stephen Morris possesses. He struggled last season but has upside and was a star at the Manning Passing Academy last summer.
Southeastern Louisiana (Friday):Todd Washington has the height you're looking for in a defensive back, at about 5-foot-11, but I want to remeasure him and check his weight and speed.