Also appearing on a regional cover of this week’s SI is University of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a 6’6”, 273-pound All-America standout who many consider to be the first-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. This is just the second time a South Carolina player has even been featured on an SI cover.
In “The Hit”, senior writer Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) takes a deeper look at Clowney’s bone crushing tackle of Michigan tailback Vincent Smith at this year’s Outback Bowl that shook the football world and made his name even more of a household name.
Down 22-21 to the Wolverines in the 4th quarter on New Year’s Day, Gamecocks senior linebacker Damario Jeffery turned to Clowney after a tough call gave their opponent a controversial first down and said: “Just make a play.” Clowney responded: “I’m with you.” (PAGE 36)
On the next play, Clowney exploded untouched into the backfield, launching Smith’s helmet into the air and the ball onto the ground (Clowney recovered the football and South Carolina went on to score on the next play and eventually won the game). The hit played on a constant loop on TV and clips online have topped well over four million aggregate views. Layden writes: “The hit was a last breath of football sanity for Clowney.” (PAGE 40)
The assumption is Clowney will leave for the NFL after one more season and has some in the media speculating he may consider sitting out his junior year to avoid injury. Clowney told Layden he plans to play next season and work hard to improve. Jon Gruden says:
“He runs gassers with the defensive backs. That’s the kind of speed he has He’s the perfect player against today’s offenses. You want to run that read option? Clowney will tackle the back, and if he doesn’t have the ball, he’ll go get the quarterback. He’s the number 1 pick whenever he comes out.” (PAGE 40)
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, a likely 2013 Heisman Trophy candidate who last year led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 season, is on the cover of the March 4, 2013 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands Wednesday. Miller is featured in SI’s Spring Football Preview.
Senior writer Thomas Lake (@thomaslake) examines how Miller’s difficult childhood in Ohio, which included a family that dealt with financial problems and a case of domestic abuse on the day he committed to Ohio State, has helped him rise to stardom through hard work and determination.
That work ethic helped Miller have the best season in 2012 that no one paid attention to since the Buckeyes were not bowl eligible. However, this fall, Lake says: “Buckeye Nation will count on Miller to lead the program to its eighth national championship.” (PAGE 43)
Last season, Miller ran for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns. Says Ohio State lineman Jack Mewhort: “You know you’ve got a guy back there that’s straight out of a video game.”(PAGE 43)
However, he only completed 58% of his passes and ranked 43rd in pass efficiency. That’s why you’ll now find Miller spending hours in the film room and holding players-only practices with his teammates about five times a week this offseason.
Tom Herman, Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, believes Miller can improve his passing numbers. He tells Lake: “The guy can be as good as there ever was.” (PAGE 47)