- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's top high school prospect, says he is down to three schools -- Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina -- and will officially decide Monday during a live announcement on ESPN's "SportsCenter" at 10:15 a.m. ET.. Here's a breakdown of just what he would mean to any of the three finalists.
If the Crimson Tide land Clowney, it would be a case of the rich getting richer. The addition of Clowney would boost the Tide's 2011 recruiting class past Florida State and into the top spot, giving Nick Saban his first No. 1-ranked class. More importantly, though, it would give Alabama an outstanding player and add to what is a strong defensive line class. Although Clowney is not an ideal fit for Bama's 3-4 defense, his combination of size, speed and athleticism would allow him to excel in that defensive scheme. He would give Alabama some versatility early on, and the 6-foot-6, 240-pounder could easily get up to 280 or 290 pounds and fit very nicely at end in time. With Jeoffrey Pagan, LaMichael Fanning and junior college players Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams already in the mix, the addition of Clowney would give Alabama some excellent options from this class along its defensive line.
The Tigers got in the race for Clowney late but seem to be in serious contention and could really use him. Clemson finished strong on national signing day, landing the No. 1-rated outside linebacker (Stephone Anthony) and the No. 1 inside linebacker (Tony Steward), and signed a good front-seven class overall. For a team that is losing Da'Quan Bowers, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and could not hold on to Pagan, a four-star defensive end, the Tigers still have a real need at the position. Since 2006, the only other player to grade out as high as Bowers is Clowney. If Clemson could land him, it would allow the Tigers to replace Bowers with a prospect who has the talent to be just as good and maybe even better. Clowney also likely would step in and play immediately.
The Gamecocks arguably have the most to lose. All three teams in the running would love to land Clowney, but South Carolina has been the perceived leader for a while, and losing Clowney could be perceived as a big blow for the Gamecocks. Working in South Carolina's favor is that Clowney has made numerous trips to Columbia, S.C., and is familiar and comfortable there. He also has past teammates on the team, and one of his current defensive linemates at South Pointe, Gerald Dixon, signed with South Carolina. Landing Clowney would give a team fresh off its first trip to the SEC title game an impact player on defense. The Gamecocks have good defensive players and ranked well in rushing defense, sacks and tackles for loss in 2010, so they don't desperately need help. But Clowney has shown the ability to be a difference-maker, and every team needs players like that. He needs to improve in areas but could contribute right away for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has shown it will play freshmen immediately (see Marcus Lattimore), and Clowney could make his presence felt and help the Gamecocks in their quest for their first conference title.
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.