Deke Adams said he’s continually been asked since becoming the Gamecocks defensive line coach how he’ll handle Clowney, the dominant, 6-foot-6 pass rusher who finished sixth in this past year’s Heisman Trophy voting.
“I think everyone else has thought about it way more than I have,” Adams said. “My personality won’t change. I’ll continue to be the person I am that got me to this point. I’ll continue to coach hard and continue to demand perfection from my guys.”
And that includes Clowney.
That doesn’t mean that Adams, who spent last season on North Carolina’s staff, isn’t much happier to have the junior standout on his sideline than playing against him. The Tar Heels and Gamecocks open next season at Williams-Brice Stadium on Aug. 31.
“That’s always a bonus,” Adams said of Clowney. “He’s a great kid and I’ve heard a lot of exciting things about him.”
The quick hire <0x2014> Adams was named on Jan. 21, a day after longtime South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing took a similar position at Florida <0x2014> has not left Adams much one-on-one time with Clowney. The two talked last weekend as South Carolina hosted several college prospects they hope to sign next week.
“I got a chance when I shook hands with him why that football looks so small in his hands,” Adams said. “He’s a great athlete.”
Clowney seems poised for a special season in 2013. He closed last year by getting 4 1-2 sacks on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in the Gamecocks 27-17 victory over their state rivals, then perhaps had the highlight of New Year’s Day with his helmet-popping hit on Michigan runner Vincent Smith.
Adams watched the game with his sons, Jaylen and Jordan, and all three jumped up after Clowney’s tackle.
“It was just an amazing hit,” Adams said. “But the game is changing so much, and it was so fast and so violent, I thought, ‘OK, they’re going to throw a flag.’”
But as the hit was replayed again and again at various speeds and camera angles, Adams marveled at the textbook hit Clowney made. “It was perfect,” he said.
Adams was also amazed Clowney had the presence and poise to think about the football, which was lying on the ground. Clowney casually picked the ball up with his left hand for the fumble recovery.
The coach saw up close last weekend how much bigger Clowney’s hands look in person.
“When I shook hands with him, I saw why the football looked so small in his hands,” Adams said.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes he and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward made a perfect selection in Adams as Lawing’s successor. Lawing was the Gamecocks coach who first watched film of Clowney as a South Pointe High sophomore with uncommon speed and power for someone so young.
Spurrier said he did not think the team would miss Lawing, who spent the past seven seasons on South Carolina, with Adams on board.
“He’s sort of my kind of coach, good family man, wonderful personality. I think our players are really going to enjoy playing for him,” Spurrier said.
Expectations for Clowney next season already through the roof. Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projected Clowney as the top selection if he were eligible this year and Spurrier’s frequently called his standout linemen a “three-year player.”
Adams understands it’s now his responsibility to help Clowney live up to those projections. The best way for Clowney to achieve all he can, Adams believes, is to work each on getting better. That ability and work ethic will come through on the field if it’s evident in practice, Adams said.
Adams is confident he’ll work well with Clowney.
“Oh yeah, I think we’ll have a great relationship. You can hear in his voice he knows he can be so much better than he is right now,” Adams said. “That’s my goal.”