The masses will descend on Columbia on Wednesday morning to see whether former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney can whip through agility drills the way he beat SEC pass-blockers for most of his three seasons with the Gamecocks.
Clowney, who prepped for South Carolina’s pro day at a south Charlotte training facility, seems confident he’ll put on a show for the scouts, coaches, general managers and more than 120 credential media members who will have eyes on him Wednesday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I go through bag drills pretty easy, so I’m not even worried about that,” Clowney told the Observer last week. “I’m glad I don’t have to throw balls.”
Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw will handle the throwing portion of the pro day, while scouts will track the route-running of South Carolina receiver Bruce Ellington.
But the main attraction – and the reason NFL Network will cover the event live and ESPN will provide live updates – is Clowney.
Clowney, who grew up in Rock Hill and starred at South Pointe High, likely would have been the No. 1 overall pick last year had he been eligible for the draft.
Instead, he struggled through a junior season marred by injuries and inconsistency. Clowney finished with just three sacks after averaging 10.5 his first two seasons.
Clowney said his production slipped because of opponents’ schemes – double-team blocks, quick-release passes and running plays designed to go away from him.
But some scouts and opponents – and even South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier – have questioned Clowney’s work ethic, a charge Clowney failed to refute when he skipped the on-field drills at the scouting combine in February.
Jed Hartigan, director of Velocity Sports Performance, said he was expecting to find a loafer when Clowney showed up at his facility six weeks ago. That was not the case.
“Everyone talks about how he doesn’t work hard. That kid worked his (butt) off,” Hartigan said Tuesday. “He might not have worked hard before, but right now he’s training really, really hard.”
Clowney began working with Hartigan following an up-and-down combine performance that was not unlike Clowney’s final season with the Gamecocks.
Clowney, who measured 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds in Indianapolis, blew through the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the combine. But his 21 reps in the pro bench press (225 pounds) were a bit lackluster for a pass-rushing end who hopes to be the first player drafted.
Clowney indicated he plans to do all the position work Wednesday and could be asked to do linebacker drills by teams eyeing him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Hartigan would not say whether Clowney planned to do the bench press again, but believes Clowney is going to have a big day.
“I’m excited to see what he does (Wednesday) and his rookie season,” Hartigan said. “He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve ever seen, and I’ve worked with 75 NFL players. He’s going to turn some heads.”
Staff writer Jonathan Jones contributed.