Brace for it ... Jadeveon Clowney vs. Antonio Richardson, the sequel, is coming this Saturday.
Clowney, the star South Carolina defensive end and prime NFL draft prospect, will face his toughest challenge of the season in the Tennessee left tackle who goes by the nickname "Tiny." At 6-foot-6, 327 pounds, there is nothing tiny about the Volunteers' junior, who is considered a top NFL prospect as well, nor is there anything tiny about what this matchup could mean for both players.
When NFL scouts scour game film of both prospects, they'll be hard-pressed to find competition for either as stiff as one another.
"He's a very good player, what, projected first-round NFL pick and all that," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said of Richardson. "I don't watch their offense, trying to find some ball plays we can run against their defense, but yeah, he's an outstanding player."
The two had plenty to say about the matchup during SEC Media Days in July. The only thing missing was prize-fight billing and a joint news conference, replete with a nose-to-nose show bill. As it was, Clowney and Richardson attended SEC Media Days 24 hours apart, and thus missed the chance to address each other directly.
Although Clowney and Richardson matched up head to head for virtually the entire game last year, UT coach Butch Jones suggested that might not be the case Saturday.
"It's not just one matchup. It's a team sport, and they do a great job of moving Clowney around," he said.
For Clowney, it could be an opportunity to get critics off his back, given the way his two-sack, 14-tackle season has been maligned over the last seven weeks. Richardson, meanwhile, knows his efforts against Clowney could provide some defining moments, good or bad, in his own evaluation as a pro prospect.
Pass protection is the name of the game at Richardson's position, and Clowney, no matter how few sacks he has, possesses the quickest first step in college football.