Scouts drooled over this one. It isn't always that you end up with two highly sought after NFL prospects facing off for most of a game, but this year's Outback bowl provided just such an opportunity for scouts to focus on one matchup for a whole game.
Taylor Lewan's draft stock has been rising all year after he began 2012 as a potential first round pick. After a strong season (with a few ups and downs against Bama and Ohio State to name a few) Lewan has established himself as one of the top left tackles in the 2013 draft class. While he has been cryptic thus far about his plans, it is widely assumed he declares for the draft soon.
Clowney, meanwhile, is basically biding his time in college until he can enter the draft. He is only a sophomore, and still one year away from even being allowed to enter his name in the draft. There is little doubt where he will end up when he does. Clowney was the number one player in his recruiting class, and was one of the most productive defensive ends in the country this season.
When the two met on the field, Lewan had a solid day protecting his quarterback's blind side. Clowney ended the game with just four tackles, one TFL (which should count as like four), and a forced fumble (I still be like damn). Still, Lewan got flagged on a hold and looked to be beaten a couple different times by the talented Gamecock pass rusher. CBS Sports' draft blog sums it up as so:
Lewan's long arms, quick feet and good balance helped him protect the edge against Clowney's speed rush. The South Carolina defender had been able to simply explode off the corner to beat many SEC offensive tackles so talent evaluators questioning whether Lewan had the foot speed to remain at left tackle in the NFL were left satisfied.
Clowney, however, is far from just a speed rusher. His ability to jab-step outside and counter back to the inside gave Lewan problems. Clowney's agility led to Lewan grabbing hold of his jersey on multiple occasions, drawing a flag late in the second quarter. Clowney also possesses an impressive over-arm swim move, which he used, at times, when Lewan would drop his head upon contact.
And so now we wait for Lewan's (somewhat obvious) decision, and when it comes we wish him the best of luck. He certainly proved himself worthy of his draft hype on Tuesday.