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Dec 18, 2013 03:49 PM EST

Jadeveon Clowney NFL Draft Stock Rises As Defensive End Claims to Be Totally Healthy


Jadeveon Clowney insists he is healthy and ready to finish his college career strong with the South Carolina Gamecocks as they prepare for the Capitol One Bowl game against Wisconsin.

The 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior defensive end has been dealing with nagging injuries all season and has been bottled up by opposing offensive lines throwing double- and triple-coverage his way. Both factors have contributed to an underwhelming season for Clowney, but his plan to declare for the NFL Draft has not changed, the Associated Press reported.

He has maintained this would be his last season since before it began and, as such, he has been allowed to partake in ceremonies normally designated for Gamecocks seniors. Despite a lack of production and various bumps and bruises, Clowney's physical attributes and abilities will likely help him become a high draft pick.

He can certainly make a large impact if he stays healthy for the entire game against Wisconsin and through offseason workout sessions for draftees.

"I had to grow up fast, put it like that," Clowney told the AP. "I've had to grow up faster than people expect."

He also frustrated his head coach Steve Spurrier when he asked to miss a game mid-season. The coach later clarified that his comments were not meant to question Clowney's commitment to the team. Still, the defensive end has dealt with bone spurs and possibly strained abdominal muscles.

"I think he's handled himself well," South Carolina's defensive line coach Deke Adam said. "I think some of the things throughout the year have been blown out of proportion with the way it happened. He's been great for us here."

ESPN's draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Clowney ranked first overall among all prospects, despite the lack of production. On an NFL team, Clowney would likely see more one-on-one opportunities than he is now, which is likely to be intriguing many general managers.

Clowney was reportedly clocked running a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds last winter, an abnormally fast time for a defensive lineman. Given he really is healthy, Clowney's pre-draft workouts will be arguably the most watched for any college football athlete in recent memory.

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