SPARTANBURG, S.C. - On Saturday at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., we learned two new things about the nation's No. 1 prospect, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe. First, apparently Clowney doesn't need any practice to be a dominant force in a game. And second, he also doesn't need to be 100-percent healthy. Despite missing all but one practice during the week and playing with a bum shoulder, Clowney showed everyone why he is the top prospect in the country and could be the top high school football player in decades.
Clowney's stat line from a 42-10 South Carolina Sandlapper drubbing of the North Carolina Tar Heel team - 5 tackles (2 solo, 3 assists), 3 sacks for a loss of 15 yards, 2 tackles for a loss of 17 yards and 2 quarterback hurries - doesn't exactly tell the entire story. Of course they are impressive and show his dominance in the game, but he could have been credited with at least a half-sack on two other occasions, he flushed the quarterback two other times that led to sacks and he also drew an amazing five offensive holding penalties. Basically, on nearly every snap he took in the game, Clowney was a factor. However, the 6-foot-6, 247-pounder felt it was just another performance on his part.
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"I thought I played well," he said. "But I wasn't 100 percent, my shoulder was bothering me a bit and I couldn't do everything I wanted to do out there. I was also a little rusty because I just did a lot of standing around this week in practice which was frustrating. But they wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to play in the game so whatever it takes."
Clowney was lined up against the North Carolina left tackle on every snap he played and while he drew the five holding calls, he and everyone else felt it could have been more.
"Oh, at least nine or 10 times, maybe more," said Clowney when asked how many times he felt he was held in the game. "It was bad. I was getting grabbed pretty good out there and I think they could have called a lot more holding. I'm used to getting held in games, but this was bad."
The main matchup for Clowney was against Pikeville (N.C.) Aycock offensive guard Jarrod James who was forced to play left tackle. Earlier in the week James expressed his desire to avoid being on anyone's highlight tape referring to his matchup against Clowney. Following the game, James was asked how good No. 90 (Clowney) was. His response was, to say the least, surprising.
"If he's the top player in the country, then I'm not far behind," said James following at least a 20-second pause after being asked the question.
Huh? Come again? What about all those holding calls, sacks, tackles for a loss and quarterback hurries?
"I did what I had to do to help my team," said James. "Playing against someone like him just makes you better and now I have a good idea of how college will be."
Certainly it's unfair to call out James for being abused by arguably the best high school prospect in decades, but make no mistake about it - James is very far behind Clowney as was everyone else on the field. Inexplicably, the North Carolina coaching staff didn't put a tight end over Clowney, didn't chip him with a running back and rarely double-teamed him with the left guard.
"I would have liked to be on that side of the line to at least chip him," said Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt tight end Eric MacLain who wasn't involved in the game plan much. "It was tough watching this, we got beaten badly."
When asked about James, Clowney was his typical honest self not pulling any punches.
"I've never had anyone play that bad against me," he said. "But he'll be alright."
Coming into the game, much of the talk was about the solid group of quarterbacks on both teams. However, the play under center and in the shotgun was ugly at times from the big four of Marquise Williams, Vad Lee, Everett Golson and Justin Worley.
Of the four, it was clear that Golson had the best game. He completed 9 of his 15 attempts for 79 yards and had a couple nice runs as well. Most importantly he didn't turn the ball over and also connected on a touchdown pass. However, the others didn't fare as well.
Worley completed 8 of his 14 passes for 109 yards and made some nice plays, but he also threw an interception for that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown by safety Brandon Ellerbe in the first quarter. He also threw another pass into a traffic that was nearly picked by linebacker Stephone Anthony and his best play, a long touchdown pass to Jerell Adams that was called back on a penalty, was thrown into double coverage. Worley didn't account for a touchdown, the only South Carolina quarterback to fall short as Golson, DeEdward Burris and even linebacker Dexter Staley threw touchdown passes in the game.
On the North Carolina side, it was very puzzling why Lee received so many more snaps in the game despite Williams being the better passer and more effective player in practice all week. Lee completed 4-of-8 passes for 26 yards and ran the ball nine times but he was also sacked four times and threw an interception that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Quinn Backus. Williams also struggled, completing 3-of-9 passes for 42 yards and an interception and rushing once but he was also in on about half the snaps of Lee throughout the game making some wonder if he was injured.
"No, I wasn't injured, I'm healthy," said the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder. "They just didn't want to play me I guess. It was supposed to be Vad in the first quarter, me in the second quarter and so on, but that didn't happen. But it's all good and I had a lot of fun and week and today. I would have liked to get more snaps, but that's the way it goes. I still had fun."
Ellerbe and Backus had the defensive touchdowns on the day and running back Shon Carson had a 12-yard scamper for a score while Dexter Staley ran one in from two yards, but the rest of the scoring was all by Jerell Adams.
Adams, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Summerton (S.C.) Scotts Branch, caught four touchdowns on the day with three of them going into the record books. His first TD was a three-yarder on a jump pass from Staley in a Wildcat formation in the second quarter. His second was a 5-yarder from DeEdward Burris in the third quarter and he finished his day with a 19-yard from Everett Golson in the fourth. As mentioned earlier, Adams also had a long touchdown catch from Worley between two defenders that was called back for an illegal man downfield. On the day Adams had five catches for 62 yards and three scores.
"This was a good experience," said Adams. "I'm so used to playing quarterback that this week in practice and in the game playing tight end was fun. I give the credit to our great receivers and running backs who really opened things up for me. It was good to come out and perform because I always hear things about playing 1A football and all of that and people question whether I can play tight end in college, so this was nice."
OTHER OFFENSIVE STANDOUTS
Lake City, S.C., running back Shon Carson had a big game with 82 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown while also catching four passes. He was named the Offensive MVP for South Carolina while Clowney was named Defensive MVP.
"I credit our offensive line for really opening up holes for me," he said. "I'm short already so I try to get even lower and make myself hard to find and hit and it worked today. I think it was a good game and it was an honor to be here."
While he was also very effective on defense (see below), Bennettsville (S.C.) Marlboro County linebacker Lateek Townsend was also an offensive standout. He rushed for 71 yards on eight carries from the Wildcat package.
Irmo, S.C., sleeper wide receiver David Frazier had six catches for 107 yards to lead all receivers in the game.
For North Carolina, Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell running back Justus Pickett had 28 yards on six carries and caught two passes for 28 more while Durham (N.C.) Jordan wide receiver T.J. Thorpe had a catch for 8 yards and four returns for 104 yards including a 50-yarder on a kickoff. They were the only two standouts for an offense that accounted for 75 yards on 44 plays. In fact, the Offensive MVP for the North Carolina squad was kicker Trevor Austin from Shelby (N.C.) Crest who kicked a 43-yard field goal and punted seven times for 232 yards.
In addition to Clowney, many South Carolina defenders had big days as well. Williston (S.C.) Elko linebacker Dexter Staley had eight tackles including three for a loss.
Manning, S.C., defensive tackle Phillip Dukes, who was hobbled for much of the week with an ankle injury, had four tackles including two sacks and two tackles for a loss.
Chester, S.C., running back Julius Pendergrass played safety and was all over the field. In addition to his four tackles he also had a fumble recovery, an interception and a pass breakup.
Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end Gerald Dixon had four tackles including two sacks and two tackles for a loss.
Townsend had two tackles as well as a sack and a tackle for a loss on the day and Backus had his interception for a score as well as three tackles.
For North Carolina, Matthews (N.C.) Butler linebacker Kris Frost was named the North Carolina Defensive MVP although it could also have gone to Asheville (N.C.) A.C. Reynolds 'backer Ben Councell. Frost had seven tackles including three for a loss and a pass breakup and was all over the field. Councell had 13 tackles including a sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss as well as a blocked punt and was also everywhere.
The other two standout linebackers, Stephone Anthony from Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson and Tremayne McNair from Jacksonville (N.C.) White Oak also had solid games. Anthony had five tackles including one for a loss and McNair had two tackles with one for a loss.
Defensive back Jerrell Armstrong from New Bern, N.C., had five tackles including one for a loss and had very good coverage on a few occasions on South Carolina star wide receiver Charone Peake.
Defensive tackle Shawn Underwood from Fuquay-Varina, N.C., had four tackles from his nose guard position and cornerback Domonique Noble from Mount Ulla (N.C.) West Rowan had four tackles. Ellerbe, as mentioned before, had his interception for a touchdown and also had three tackles.
And while many stood out in the game, others were surprising in their absence. Peake, a Rivals100 receiver from Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman, had only one catch for three yards and had trouble separating from defensive backs all game. St. Matthews (S.C.) Calhoun County athlete Shamier Jeffery had only one catch for 4 yards and was also a non-factor in the game.
Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt defensive tackle Devonte Brown had only one tackle and was handled pretty easily throughout the game despite a strong week of practice and his teammate, the aforementioned MacLain, was not throw at once nor did it appear he was asked to run routes.
Kannapolis (N.C.) Brown running back Travis Riley had -1 yards on five carries and fumbled on the South Carolina two-yard line with a chance to put North Carolina up 17-0. Durham (N.C.) Southern Durham receiver Sherman Ragland had no catches and Greensboro (N.C.) Ben L. Smith receiver Eric Ebron was also kept off the stat sheet and had a drop. Another three-star receiver, Monroe (N.C.) Parkwood's Marcus Leak was also held without a catch. In fact, the apparent advantage the North Carolina receivers had over the South Carolina defensive backs was never exploited due to poor quarterback play and a guy named Clowney.
While Jarrod James and the North Carolina offensive line was embarrassed for the most part, the South Carolina offensive line was stellar overall.
Left tackles Shaq Anthony from Piedmont (S.C.) Wren and Stephen Grommer from Spartanburg, S.C., handled Brown and the rest with ease, Mauldin, S.C., center Ryan Norton had a couple of bad snaps but did a solid job against Underwood and right tackle Brandon Shell from Charleston (S.C.) Goose Creek was dominant.
Winnsboro (S.C.) Fairfield Central linebacker Ralph Cooper had three tackles on defense, but he also contributed on offense as a lead blocker in the Wildcat package. Cooper laid out a few defensive backs and did a good job on the linebackers when South Carolina decided to go to the direct snap formation.