The Daily Gamecock

Young players learning from Clowney

2-sport athlete Bruce Ellington practices for first time this spring

During the offseason, junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has become a YouTube sensation and graced a magazine cover, but with spring practice underway, the most prevalent topic lately has been Clowney’s Heisman chances for the 2013 season.

After Tuesday’s spring practice, the All-American talked about what would need to happen for him to take the highest individual honor in college football as a defensive player.

“I think I need to just make a lot of key plays in big games,” Clowney said. “I think that’d leave a bit of leeway.”

Despite the award’s designation as the prize for the best individual player in the nation, it has been a predominantly offensive honor. No purely defensive player has won the award in its history and the last winner to play defense at all came in 1997 when Charles Woodson won the award.

Clowney emphatically denied any rumors that he would dabble in offense this fall, saying that he has “no interest at all” in playing offense — effectively making his Heisman campaign for 2013 an uphill climb.

“That’s what the people like, touchdowns and more touchdowns,” Clowney said. “They don’t worry about the sacks and stuff.”

Clowney finished sixth in last season’s Heisman voting and received four first-place votes in the process.

Amid all the individual attention Clowney has been receiving, younger players said he has embraced his role as a mentor to some of his younger counterparts on the defensive line. Freshman defensive end Darius English, who will look to increase his playing time in the fall after recording three tackles in 2012, has been one of the beneficiaries of Clowney’s guidance.

“Just the mindset of coming out and just knowing that you can beat that guy in front of you,” English said. “That’s the biggest thing that I really picked up from (Clowney).”

Aside from the mental aspect of the game, English has begun to prepare for next season physically, too. He’s on a strict eating and lifting regimen to gain weight so he can compete with the massive offensive tackles he will face in the SEC.

As he enters his third year with the Gamecock football program, Clowney said he is using this spring to help young players like English develop and learn in hopes of better success this fall and in the future, after he leaves.

“I help them out and tell them what to do,” Clowney said. “To help the defensive line out, whoever’s behind me I’ll just tell them what they’re supposed to do on certain plays.”

A number of former Gamecocks such as Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore came to Tuesday’s practice to check out this year’s team.

In addition, junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington hit the practice field for the first time on Tuesday after spending the offseason manning the point guard position for coach Frank Martin’s basketball team. He is coming off a season in which he led the team in receiving yards, and Ellington will occupy an even more prominent role in South Carolina’s offense after the departure of junior wideout Ace Sanders for the NFL.

Sanders, along with 17 other Gamecock professional prospects, will go under the microscope on Wednesday as they take part in the annual Pro Timing Day, where they will have the opportunity to show off their abilities to NFL coaches and scouts that will be on hand. Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis attended Tuesday’s practice in order to get an advance look at some of South Carolina’s potential draft prospects as they went through drills.

Wednesday’s Pro Timing Day will take place at Williams-Brice Stadium, and the on-field portion that begins at 11 a.m. will be free to the public.


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