By MARK DIDTLER/Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – With an All-American on each side, South Carolina’s sack-happy defense faces Michigan’s formidable offensive front in the Outback Bowl.
The 11th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) topped the SEC with 40 sacks this year, including a school-record 13 by All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
“We have a chemistry out there,” Clowney said. “Everybody watches each other out there. We all get to the ball. Everybody just wants the same goal … we all want to win.”
The 19th-ranked Wolverines (8-4) allowed a Big Ten-low 15 sacks, due in part to an experienced line anchored by All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Lewan could be playing in his last collegiate game on New Year’s Day. He plans to announce after the Outback Bowl if he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s not about Jadeveon Clowney, it’s about the University of Michigan and USC,” Lewan said. “He’s a great player. I have tremendous respect for him, but at the same time I’m an offensive lineman. I’m supposed to block. It’s my job to block people.”
Lewan could be playing in his last collegiate game next week. He plans to announce after the Outback Bowl if he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.
“I have an idea of what I’m doing,” Lewan said. “I’m almost positive I know what I’m doing. I’ll play football on Tuesday, January 1st, and then I’ll make my decision. I’ll talk to the coaches about it, and we’ll go from there.”
Lewan, right guard Patrick Omameh and left guard Michael Schofield have made a combined 97 starts for Michigan.
“I trust my offensive line,” Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson said. “I know they’ll lay it (all out) for me, so I’ve got to do the same for them.”
Robinson has been throwing the ball at practice. Nerve damage in his right elbow knocked him off the field Oct. 27 at Nebraska, keeping him out for the next two games and limiting his ability to throw in the final two games of the regular season.
Clowney won the Hendricks Award this year as the best defensive end in college football. The sophomore generated a buzz the past few weeks after saying a defensive player can win the Heisman Trophy next year and that it could be him.
“I’m going to play like I’ve been playing, and if it comes out that I win the Heisman, then I win the Heisman,” Clowney said. “But if I don’t, I just don’t.”
Clowney has been surprised by the interest generated by his Heisman comments.
“Somebody brought it up to me, and I was just like `it’s out there for me.’ All the awards out there are for pretty much for anybody who wants them,” Clowney said. “I didn’t even bring the Heisman up. So, I just laughed. It’s just something to get everybody talking about.”
Clowney finished sixth in this year’s Heisman voting, which was won by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
“He’s a free-spirited young man,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s definitely as good a pass rusher, I think, as I’ve coached. He pretty much does what we ask him to do all the time as far as being a good teammate and all of that. We’ll worry about that (the Heisman) when then they start voting next year.”
Clowney also establish a South Carolina mark with 21 1/2 tackles for loss this season.
“He’s a freak of nature,” Gamecocks linebacker Damario Jeffery said. “One of those guys that comes around every hundred years.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)