Jadeveon Clowney won New Year’s Day. (Al Messerschmidt / AP)

In the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day, Jadeveon Clowney delivered a hit so massive that it threatens to resonate into 2014.

The South Carolina defensive end split two Michigan blockers, jarred the ball, the helmet and probably several of Vincent Smith’s fillings loose. Then, as if that weren’t enough, Clowney recovered the ball with one hand and advanced it two yards before being tackled. The hit set up a go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter and the Gamecocks won, 33-28. Clowney, who was the top recruit in the nation, may even have gotten his notoriously offensive-minded ol’ ball coach, Steve Spurrier, to take notice of him.

In a perfect world, Clowney could ride the hit that teammate J.T. Surratt said sounded like a “car wreck” right into the NFL draft in April (and might even be the top pick), but the NFL requires that a player must be three years out of high school in order to be eligible for the draft and Clowney, who turns 20 next month, is two years out. Clowney could challenge the rule, agreed upon by NFL owners and the NFL Players Association, but Maurice Clarett’s attempt was unsuccessful.

Playing another year of college ball poses dangerous possibilities, as Clowney has witnessed first-hand. Last fall as his teammate, Marcus Lattimore, suffered a serious knee injury, one that will lower his draft value. Doug Farrar of Shutdown Corner at Yahoo Sports writes:

It seems that the NCAA and NFL are the only two forces around who can successfully block Clowney. Both organizations should consider themselves fortunate that Clowney seems OK with that. He’d be a far better, and more appealing, subject than Clarett  if he wanted to challenge the rule that impacts his ability to profit from his potential.

(Note: Smith was not injured on the play.)

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