- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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And then there were two. There's been some serious buzz lately about the No. 2 guy in our countdown.
No. 2: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.
2012 summary: Clowney won the 2012 Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in college football. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting and was a unanimous first-team All-American, becoming only the second player at South Carolina to earn that status. The other was Heisman Trophy winner was George Rogers in 1980. Clowney finished second in the SEC in tackles for loss (23.5) and sacks (13). He had 54 total tackles and also forced three fumbles.
Most recent ranking: No. 7 in the 2012 preseason countdown.
Making the case for Clowney: Anybody who's remotely interested in college football has seen Clowney's devastating hit on the Michigan running back in the Outback Bowl by now. It really tells you everything you need to know about Clowney as a player. He's explosive. He's a tremendous finisher. He's instinctive, and he has the size and power to be a game-changer on every play. As his sophomore season progressed, he also became a much smarter player and learned to adjust based on how opposing offenses were trying to block him. Of course, blocking him one-on-one and doing it successfully for an entire game were just about impossible. Even in those games where he was relatively quiet for stretches, he always managed to make a play that changed the complexion of the game. He took Georgia out of everything the Bulldogs were trying to do in their 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks. He saved the Tennessee game with his sack of Tyler Bray and forced fumble in the final minutes, and he set up camp in the Clemson backfield with 4.5 sacks in the 27-17 win over the Tigers. His helmet-flying hit and forced fumble in the Outback Bowl turned that game around for the Gamecocks. If the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Clowney were eligible to come out this year, he'd be the first overall pick in April's NFL draft. He would have been a first-round selection after his freshman season. He's the ultimate difference-maker on defense and will go down as one of the best pure talents to ever come through the SEC.
No. 3: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. RJr.
No. 5: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
12hAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
4dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf