Ok, maybe he hasn’t had a Heisman winning season, but has he at least had a season comparable with some of this year’s projected finalists?
Well, this year, at least defensively, he certainly has.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s defensive superman, might play a different position than Clowney, but when you really compare the two’s stats, you’d be hard pressed to honestly say you’d want one on your team over the other this year.
Te’0 has more interceptions and more total tackles, but those are really the only area of the game he has a clear edge over Clowney.
Clowney has just 15 less solo tackles than Te’o. Also, 49 percent of Te’0′s tackles were assisted, so it’s not hard to see why he had so many more total tackles than Clowney; Just 26 percent of Carolina’s star defensive end’s tackles were made with the help of a teammate.
Clowney has way more sacks and tackles for loss than Te’o.
Taking that fact, and Te’o's interception lead into consideration, let’s do something about these statistical gaps… Let’s compare Clowney’s sacks to Te’o's picks.
The sophomore has 13 sacks for a loss of 73 yards. That’s -5.6 yards per sack.
The senior has seven interceptions for a gain of 35 yards. That’s five yards per pick.
Basically, all that means is you could compare each player’s best attributes (Clowney’s pass rush and Te’o's pursuit in coverage) and you should come to a stalemate every time.
But there’s no tie between these to players in my eyes (which are peering through garnet-tinted glasses right now).
Sticking with a turnover theme (for one more sentence), Clowney forced two fumbles this year (one was a game saver against Tennessee). Teo hasn’t forced any.
Also, of Te’o's 103 total tackles, less than six of them resulted in a loss of yards for his opponent.
Of Clowney’s 50 tackles, 21.5 of them resulted in a loss of yards for his opponent.
Yes, Clowney plays closer to the line of scrimmage on almost every down than Te’o, but the goal of a defense is to keep opposing offenses behind that yellow first down line (it’s there on the field and not just on tv, right?) and off the field. Almost half of Clowney’s tackles pushed Carolina’s opponents backwards. Just five percent of Te’o's tackles did the same for Notre Dame.
So, even though Clowney had just a little over half as many tackles per game as Teo, a higher percentage of those tackles were solo, and an even higher percentage of them pushed his opponents away from the first down marker. While Teo has seven interceptions, and Clowney has none, Carolina’s defensive end has 13 sacks to Teo’s 1.5. Clowney has also forced more fumbles than Teo.
Oh, and if you’re looking for a “Heisman Moment”, how about his 4.5 sacks and seven tackles in Carolina’s dismantling of Clemson Saturday. No one else came anywhere close to slowing down that offense like he (and his teammates) did.
This is no sleight to Teo, by the way. It’s just a comparison between two very, very good defensive players.
Notre Dame is undefeated and about to play for a BCS Title, after all.
It’s just amazing that Clowney hasn’t even really been mentioned as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year.