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Nick Saban: Jadeveon Clowney will be 'great professional player'

If Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic is going to hamper his professional football career, Nick Saban isn't seeing it.

The Crimson Tide coach spoke highly of Clowney at a speaking engagement in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday night, and said he believes Clowney will make a great pro.

"We thought he was the best player in the country when he was a senior in high school and had lots of opportunities to watch him play and certainly feel like he's one of the best players in the country," Saban said, according to "I feel like he'll be a great professional player."

Saban and the Alabama staff were all over Clowney during the recruiting process in 2010 and managed to get Clowney to make an official visit, but the allure of playing in-state was too great for Clowney, a Rock Hill, S.C., native. Saban also said he'd like to see an SEC player be the first chosen in the May 8-10 NFL draft. Draft experts project the Houston Texans to make that happen with Clowney.

Saban's Alabama teams never faced Clowney in his three years at South Carolina, thanks to the rotation of cross-divisional scheduling in the SEC. But Saban has coached his share of top pass rushers, including Marcus Spears at LSU, Jason Taylor with the Miami Dolphins and Courtney Upshaw at Alabama.

Best known for his tutelage of defensive backs -- Saban spends much of his practice time with cornerbacks -- an endorsement from Saban for a cornerback can be worth its NFL draft weight in gold. Just ask Kareem Jackson, who left Alabama early as a projected second-round pick and was the No. 20 overall pick by the Texans in the 2010 draft.

But as a longtime NFL assistant with a deep background coaching defense, the Saban stamp of approval for pass rushers isn't far behind.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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