Jadeveon Clowney leads the way
The nation's top prospect was one of many stars in Shrine Game of the Carolinas
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas All-Star game saw the South Carolina squad score 42 unanswered points and roll North Carolina 42-10 in the 74th edition of the game. The game featured the nation's top prospect Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) as well as five other ESPNU 150 prospects and a host of talented four- and three-star players.
Simply the best
Clowney, No. 1 in the ESPNU 150, returned to action after missing most of the week of practice with a banged up shoulder. Despite missing a good chunk of practice time and playing at less than 100 percent, Clowney made his presence known quickly and throughout the game. He made the tackle on North Carolina's first offensive play and followed that up by getting a sack on its second play. Clowney used his outstanding initial quickness to burst through the line and notch the sack before the play really even had a chance to develop. That quick start set the tone as Clowney was simply unstoppable for most of the day. He notched five tackles and three sacks and while that stat line is very good, his impact was greater then just those numbers. He flushed the quarterback from the pocket several times and also drew about half-dozen holding calls and could have easily forced another half-dozen or so such calls if the officials wanted to make the game a laundry fest. While Clowney used his outstanding combination of size and athleticism to wreak havoc, his ability as a game changer was evident in other ways as well. On one play in the second half, Clowney exploded upfield and was on path to another potential sack, but he read that the play was a screen and peeled back to take away the quarterback's throw and forced him to eat the ball and take a sack at the hands of another South Carolina lineman. The uncommitted five-star recruit put forth a performance worthy of the top player in the nation. His next challenge will be down in Orlando at the Under Armour All-America Game, where practices start on Jan.1 and the game is played on Jan. 5.
Tight end it is
One of the stars of the game was South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams (Summerton, S.C./Scotts Branch), who plays at a small 1-A school. The uncommitted athlete played several positions for his high school, including quarterback, but after studying his film it appeared that he would need to play either defensive end or tight end in college. A prospect with a long and rangy frame and terrific ball skills, we felt that tight end would be his best fit in college and Adams proved that thinking to be correct by scoring three touchdowns and flashing his hands and athleticism in the process. One of his touchdowns was a fade route and he used his body to shield the defender and went up and got the ball. His last touchdown displayed his hands and concentration as he caught a well-thrown ball from Everett Golson (Myrtle Beach, S.C./Myrtle Beach) in traffic. Adams could have had a fourth touchdown, but the play was called back due to a penalty. Adams, who said after the game that South Carolina and Clemson are the two schools that stand out to him right now, needs to keep developing his frame and improving on some of the finer aspects of tight end play, but he displayed that he has the tools to fit well and be productive at that position in college.
The South Carolina squad tried to get the most out of its roster and got good overall production from two of its linebackers. ESPNU 150 linebacker Lateek Townsend (Bennettsville, S.C./Marlboro County) has flare for blitzing as a linebacker and his high energy style is a great fit for defense, which he will play in college. But he also flashed his athleticism and toughness with some action of offense as well. The four-star prospect lined up at quarterback in a version of the Wildcat formation at times during the game and finished with 71 yards on eight carries. He showcased his good speed with one long run and displayed his toughness and balance on another run where he broke tackles and fought for yards. Townsend also forced a fumble on a punt return which was recovered by the North Carolina squad, but it still was an indicator of his ability to be productive in all three phases of the game.
Another versatile defender for South Carolina was three-star linebacker Dexter Staley (Williston, S.C./Williston-Elko). He is a bit raw overall, but Staley is a good athlete with a nice frame to develop along with good straight-line speed and toughness. On offense, Staley threw a short touchdown pass near the goal-line where he faked run and jumped up and tossed the ball to Adams on the play. He also ran one in for a score from two yards out in the fourth quarter. The linebacker prospect also made his presence known on that side of the ball, forcing a fumble deep when North Carolina was in the red zone and ended a scoring threat.
Tough day for QBs
The game featured four talented quarterback prospects who are all committed to BCS programs, but it was not a great day for the quarterbacks. Tennessee commit Justin Worley (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern) had a solid day statistically going 8 of 14 for 109 yards, but he never looked comfortable and struggled to display that deep ball touch he has shown and also threw a pick-six in the first quarter that helped North Carolina get out to a 10-0 lead. The North Carolina quarterbacks spent a lot of time on the run and neither Marquise Williams (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek) (3 of 9, 42 yards, one INT) or Vad Lee (Durham, N.C./Hillside) (4 of 8, 26 yards, one INT) had very a good day.
The quarterback who had the best day was South Carolina's Golson. The Notre Dame commit was 9 of 15 for 79 yards with one touchdown. While his stats are not eye popping, he was the most consistent QB out there. He is very athletic and displayed his ability under pressure to run and create second chances. He showed the ability to quickly get the ball out of his hands and flashed good zip on the ball like with his touchdown pass to Adams. The thing with Golson is he has the tools, but he also displayed that he can be erratic with his accuracy at times and missed some throws he could have made.
Linebackers stand out
A strength of the North Carolina defense was at linebacker and the group had a good day even in a losing effort. One player who impressed me in practice was linebacker Ben Councell (Asheville, N.C./A.C. Reynolds) and the Notre Dame commit followed up that strong practice performance with a fine game. A tall and rangy kid who needs to keep developing his frame, Councell is a very active defender who finished the game with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. He needs to learn to use his hands better, but he is physical when taking on blockers, displays good awareness as a player, and runs well for his size. He also made a big play on special teams blocking a punt in the first half. I said it earlier in the week and still believe it, Councell is a great fit for the Fighting Irish's 3-4 defense.
Kris Frost (Matthews, N.C./Butler) won the North Carolina Defensive MVP for the game. The four-star athlete could potentially play on all three levels of the defense in certain situations, but fits best at linebacker and seven tackles, three tackles-for-loss, and a pass break-up. A good overall athlete, the uncommitted Frost can be physical against the run and with a nice closing burst he can deliver a pop on contact. He flashed his ability in coverage on his pass break-up as he stayed on the hip of the intended target and as the ball came he reached in and knocked it down. Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, N.C./Anson), the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country, had a good day finishing with five tackles and his excellent pursuit habits and closing burst could be seen.
Little big man
A potential sleeper at the game was cornerback Jerrell Armstrong (New Bern, N.C./New Bern). A diminutive corner, Armstrong matched up with five-star WR Charone Peake (Roebuck, S.C./Dorman), the No. 1 wideout in the country, on several occasions and more than held his own. While only standing about 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Armstrong proved he can play bigger then his measureables may suggest. On one play he ran with the 6-3 Peake and on a jump ball, Armstrong got position, elevated, and knocked the ball down to prevent the catch. Armstrong tested well this summer, posting a 4.45 40 and a 34.5 vertical at a combine, and displayed the ability to be able to run with receivers and contest jump balls. Currently committed to FCS program Elon, his size will understandably scare programs away, but Armstrong showed flashes going against an outstanding receiver and might deserve another look. "It was a good experience, letting people know that I could play with big D-I players," Armstrong said. He also said he just recently heard from Virginia Tech, who liked his senior film, and I don't blame the Hokies for doing a little more investigating on this small, but competitive corner.
Clowney was dominant, but his high school teammate Gerald Dixon (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) made some plays as well. He was active and much like he player during the season, he offered little relief for quarterbacks trying to flee from Clowney. Dixon finished with two sacks. ... Defensive tackle Devonte Brown (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) looked good in practice, but was quiet during the game and a big reason was because of good play from South Carolina offensive tackle and Clemson commit Shaq Anthony (Piedmont, S.C./Wren). ... An O-lineman who struggled was North Carolina commit Jarrod James (Pikeville, N.C./Aycock). A three-star prospect who we feel is better suited for guard in college, James played left tackle and had a hard time trying to stop or even slow down Clowney, a task that can be difficult for many. It may have been a tough day for James, but it should be a good learning experience and James should enjoy more success with work and a move inside to guard. ... Kickers rarely get recognition, but North Carolina kicker Trever Austin (Shelby, N.C./Crest) had a good day. He cleanly hit a 43-yard field goal attempt to start off the scoring for the game and continued throughout with a good consistent all-around performance in all his kicking assignments. ... Three-star back Shon Carson (Scranton, S.C./Lake City) was the leading rusher in the game with 82 yards on 16 carries. A compact and stoutly-built back, Carson also had a 12-yard touchdown run. Like on film, he ran hard and displayed good vision and patience. ... The big receivers for the South Carolina squad -- Peake and Shamier Jeffery (Saint Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County) -- were held in check and the two talented and big targets combined only for two catches. Elon Commit David Frazier (Columbia, S.C./Irmo) had a productive day for South Carolina and caught six passes for 107 yards. A tough possession type receiver with good hands, Frazier is a nice pickup for the Phoenix.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
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