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Tigers prepping to face imposing Clowney (with PODCAST)

Tigers prepping to face imposing Clowney (with PODCAST)

October 24th, 2013 in News

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney rushes against Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson during last Saturday's game in Knoxville, Tenn.

Photo by The Associated Press /News Tribune.

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Best defensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference. Heisman Trophy candidate. No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Those are just a few of the superlatives that have been tossed around when it comes to Jadeveon Clowney, the imposing 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior defensive end for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

While Clowney hasn't lived up to those lofty expectations thus far in 2013, managing just two sacks and 18 total tackles in six games, the spotlight is sure to shine on him as the No. 20 Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2 SEC) take on No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC) at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2-TV) at Faurot Field.

"He's a great player. We knew he was a great player a year ago. Everybody has their plan for him, and we'll try to have ours," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. "With that team, they have a lot of good players. Their front guys are really, really good and present a lot of problems."

Added Missouri left tackle Justin Britt, who will have the primary responsibility of containing Clowney: "It's very exciting because eyes will be on me too. I don't feel any pressure. It's just a game, we go out there and have fun and love what we do."

Clowney's two sacks tie him for 22nd in the SEC alone, well behind Missouri's Michael Sam, who leads not only the SEC, but is tied for tops in the nation with nine sacks. Clemson's Vic Beasley is the only other player in NCAA Division I football with that many sacks.

Sam, in fact, is just 2.5 sacks from tying the Missouri all-time mark set by Aldon Smith in 2009.

"Michael Sam is leading the way for our whole defense from an effort standpoint," Pinkel said. "This is how you play every play as hard as you can play, watch him."

Back to Clowney, who is second on his team to Kelcy Quarles (five) in the sack category.

While he certainly hasn't lived up to the lofty preseason expectations heaped upon him, the defensive end is still a force to be reckoned with. Clowney recorded 1.5 sacks in South Carolina's 31-10 victory against Missouri last season.

"That seems like a like time ago, and so many good things have happened this year," Britt said. "I try not to dwell on the past."

That doesn't mean Britt forgets what makes Clowney such a talent.

"His instincts are great," he said. "His football intelligence is there. That's why he's highly rated, No. 1 in the draft."

With all the accolades, all the fawning over Clowney, you'd think there might be an intimidation factor on the Missouri side.

"No, not at all," Missouri redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk, who will be making his second collegiate start Saturday, said. "He's just another guy. We're going against Kony (Ealy) and Michael Sam, who are producing just like him right now, in practice.

"Obviously everybody talks about Clowney, but then they have three guys that are doing just as much as him this year. I just have to be mentally ready come Saturday and we'll be all right."

For Mauk to be all right, he'll need some help from the offensive line. He sure got that against Florida, as the mobile Mauk was never sacked.

"I saw somewhere that said the offensive line treated Maty like he was our newborn baby," Britt said. "Coming from a dad, sure, he's our baby. He sits back there and he hands the ball off, throws it off, so without us he couldn't do any of that. We all know that it all starts with us."

Britt said it's helped going against one of the best defensive lines in the nation in practice. Missouri is tied for fifth in the country with 23 sacks, which already surpasses the Tigers' 2012 total of 21.

"Going against Kony and Michael Sam and Shane (Ray), they've ending up being some of the top defensive ends in the nation right now," Britt said. "Going up against them every day will help us. It's shown. We've gotten better as an offensive line throughout the year."

That certainly will be put to the test against Clowney and the South Carolina defensive line.

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