South Carolina crashed and burned against Tennessee Saturday, falling 23-21 to the unranked Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. For Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the game provided an individual showdown against Vols offensive tackle Antonio Richardson. In a matchup of two high-profile NFL Draft prospects, Clowney had an opportunity to further improve his stock.
Tennessee has a solid offensive line that has given up just eight sacks this year and allowed running backs to average 5.1 yards per carry. And Richardson, the anchor of the line, has been training to stop Clowney since early in the offseason. The defensive end had some success during the game, compiling five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, with the Vols unable to move the ball on his side of the field for much of the game:
Those numbers indicate that Clowney won the individual matchup with Richardson, and NFL.com's Chase Goodbread confirms that thought. Goodbread, who follows draft prospects in the college game, says Clowney won 22 of the 38 plays when the head-to-head matchup was a factor and the overall battle against the pass and run.
Overall edge: Clowney, and by a longshot. He played all but two plays in the first half, watching a couple of snaps from the sideline near the end of the first quarter, and only once did he loaf on a play. Richardson was flagged for a false start on a 3rd-and-11 play in which he was trying to get a jump on Clowney's first step, and was later flagged for illegal formation because he was setting up too deep off the line of scrimmage, again in anticipation of Clowney's quickness. Clowney set the tone for the game early with a six-yard tackle for loss on Tennessee's second play from scrimmage, and didn't let up on the Volunteers' star tackle the rest of the day.
How impressive is it that Tennessee won despite Clowney playing so well?
The overall numbers and analysis from pundits like Goodbread will do more to influence draft scouts, but the big tackle for loss was the kind of play that makes fans jump out of their seats.
Clowney hasn't come up with the kind of production seen in 2012, totaling 19 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in six games. But, the matchup against Tennessee and Richardson was his best so far this season, so perhaps he's regaining his old form. No matter what, he likely won't have to wait long to hear his name called on draft day.