COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - The start of the 2013 season is months away and South Carolina is just six workouts in to the program's spring practice period, but standout defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is already mapping his path to the Heisman trophy.
Clowney has been a national media darling since his bone-jarring hit on Michigan runningback Vincent Smith in January's Outback Bowl. That stunning visual combined with a solid season during which he set a South Carolina sack record has made him a popular choice to be a Heisman finalist next December.
A defensive player has never won the award, and Clowney isn't pushing himself as the man to beat just yet, but continues to field questions on the Heisman topic.
After Tuesday's practice, the defensive end offered his perspective on why a defensive player has never won college football's most-coveted award.
"It's kind of strange, but, that's what the people like is touchdowns and more touchdowns. They don't worry about the sacks and stuff, I guess. They feel like offense is a more individual side," said Clowney.
Changing that mentality isn't a one-man job, but that isn't stopping Clowney from giving tips to a prospective defensive player on becoming the first to break the Heisman barrier.
And he knows that person could be him.
"I think I need, I need to lead the SEC in tackles for loss, forced fumbles and sacks and just make a lot of plays out there. A lot of key plays in big games," said Clowney.
Clowney has shown a knack for doing that, delivering the Michigan knockout blow on national TV and collecting a program record 4.5 sacks against rival Clemson back in November.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward have said numerous times since last season that the staff will work with Clowney so he does not succumb to the pressure of the national attention or let it go to his head.
Spurrier says he expects Clowney "to be a good teammate and do what everybody else does."
That may be a hard task for someone who is capable of doing things not everybody can.