Notes: Consensus top-rated defensive end recruit in the nation coming out of South Carolina, where he was named Gatorade Player of the Year. Finished his high school career with 267 tackles, 90 for loss and 37 sacks, in addition to playing running back and returning kicks at 260 pounds. Was asked to add 15 pounds upon arriving at Clemson. Started 6-of-13 games at strong-side defensive end as a true freshman in 2008, recording 47 tackles, eight for loss and one sack with three passes batted down. In '09, started 11-of-12 games in which he played and tallied 58-11-3 with a batted pass and a forced fumble. Did not play against Florida State or North Carolina State and did not start against South Carolina after spraining his right MCL and PCL. Dealt with the death of former Tiger Gaines Adams, whom he considered a big brother, in January '10 and then lost his father suddenly during fall camp. On the season, started all 13 games at defensive end and tied for the national lead in tackles for loss by registering 74-26-15½ with two passes batted down, one interception and a forced fumble. Won the Nagurski and Hendricks awards, and was named the Tigers' team MVP. Had surgery in January '11 to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee that kept him from working out at the Combine. Will be a 21-year-old rookie.
Positives: Looks the part with a thick, muscular, well-proportioned build - outstanding size, strength and body power. Comes off the ball like a missile and is highly disruptive - lived in the backfield as a junior. Constricts running lanes and is strong at the point. Strong hands - shocks linemen with his punch and shows the ability to extend, control, locate and disengage. Good eyes and awareness. Good bend, balance and body control for a player his size. Strong bull rush - gets underneath blockers' pads and walks them back. Moves well laterally and accelerates through the gap on loops and stunts. Shows finishing burst and is an explosive tackler. Sound character.
Negatives: One-year producer - underachieved his first two years and played down to the competition. Not a pure pass rusher - inconsistent getoff and needs to cultivate a more diverse array of moves. Does not sell out around piles or play with energy or tempo. Lacks the athletic ability to play in space. Not a glass-eater - too often relies on his natural ability and leaves production on the field. Weight has fluctuated - was nearly 300 pounds early in career. Knee must be re-evaluated.
Summary: A unique physical specimen who re-shaped his body as a junior and led the nation in sacks, Bowers displays a rare blend of power, leverage, speed and burst that would play best at left defensive end in the pros. Carries some worrisome underachiever traits which, coupled with postseason knee surgery, have created concerns that could affect his draft status. That said, has proven dominant when he ratchets up his intensity and boasts a more complete skill set than '07 fourth overall selection Gaines Adams, the last great Clemson pass rusher. Knee injury is concerning and has elicited some comparisons to Cardinals 1998 third overall pick Andre Wadsworth, who could never stay healthy and fizzled out of the league.