HOOVER, Ala. -- Jadeveon Clowney has said he never gave any serious thought to sitting out the 2013 season in anticipation of the NFL draft. But if there was any doubt about whether Clowney was actually pressed to sit out the season to protect himself from injury, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier left none on Tuesday at SEC Media Days.
"Jadeveon didn't even have to play last year," Spurrier said. "A lot of people advised him to sit out. He wanted to play."
As it turned out, a less-than-spectacular junior season still resulted in the former South Carolina defensive end becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans in this year's draft. Clowney made just three sacks for the Gamecocks, 10 fewer than he made as a sophomore, and was maligned for not only the lack of production, but for his effort at times, as well.
It would have been highly interesting to see whether Clowney could have still commanded the status of a No. 1 overall pick without even playing a down as a college junior. He was considered one of the top pro prospects in the college game after his sophomore season, leading to speculation that he might not need to put a third college season on tape for NFL scouts that already were enamored with his physical skills.
What made Clowney's situation somewhat different was that after his true sophomore season, he was still a year away from NFL draft eligibility under a rule requiring underclassmen to be three years removed from high school. By contrast, redshirt sophomores like Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans -- two 2014 first-round picks -- are already three years removed from high school after playing for two seasons.