- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the confetti still falling on South Beach and Tuscaloosa, Ala., officially in holiday mode, I'd like to take a moment away from Alabama's celebration to apologize to Jadeveon Clowney -- and the SEC.
I'm so, so sorry that you both have to deal with each other for one last season. Really, it's completely unfair to all of those poor offenses that have to face Clowney, and it's totally unfair to Clowney that he has to come back for one final year with the Gamecocks, instead of playing with the big boys in the big league.
Why is it so unfair? It's simple, really. Just look at The Hit. It's one that will be played as long as TVs work and the Internet is up and running. It's one that will be written about, and has! It was a thing of beauty. It showed anger, speed, strength, violence and delicacy all at the same time. When Clowney hit Michigan running back Vincent Smith deep in his own backfield and sent his helmet flying around 10 yards backward, everyone watching felt it. He then had the audacity to scoop the ball up with one hand, like it was a tennis ball!
Excuse the hyperbole, but that hit was stunning, and it's the main reason why Clowney deserves to leave the college game. It was everything anyone has ever said about it and more. It was a hit that NFL players dream of. It mimicked a Hummer smashing into a FIAT.
Props to Smith for getting up because I know the person writing this and 99 percent of the people reading this would still be jammed into the turf inside Raymond James Stadium.
People have made a big deal about that hit because it just shows the competitive advantage Clowney has over his peers. Has he taken plays off this year? Yes, but you would too if you were bored with the line of work you were in. He's ready to be challenged by grown men.
Sure, education comes first in this world, but as soon as Clowney can find an opening to the NFL, he's gone. And I understand that South Carolina players, coaches and fans are ecstatic about the fact that he'll be back, but, man, the guy might be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft if eligible.
Clowney is a special player. He was the SEC's best defensive player and was the league's best player not named Johnny Manziel. And after watching Monday night's Debacle on South Beach, one could argue that Clowney might be the nation's best defensive player after Notre Dame's Manti Te'o missed tackle after tackle in the loss to Alabama.
The unanimous first-team All-American and college football's All-America Player of the Year presented by AT&T, was constantly double-teamed, dealt with nagging injuries all year and still registered a school record in tackles for loss (23.5) and sacks (13).
Clowney probably had the body and the skill to go straight to the league after his high school graduation, but this isn't baseball. And in fairness to the NFL, 99.9999 percent of high school players aren't ready for the NFL. But Clowney was the exception then and he's the exception now.
If there was a loophole for Clowney to get to the next level, he would have found it, but he's staying in school for one last romp through SEC backfields. The selfish side of me can't wait to watch what he does in Year 3, but I can't help but feel sorry for Clowney and the SEC, as he continues life as a man among boys.
11hEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf