The nation's No. 1 prospect, Jadeveon Clowney, is just another example of the surprising talent the state of South Carolina produces. Rivals.com analysts debate the best under-the-radar states in churning out top prospects, along with the best and worst BCS conferences as National Signing Day nears.[details]
The Good: A big, versatile athlete who can play a number of positions at the next level. He is very fluid in space and does a great job using his hands and body control to slip blocks on the outside. Is very instinctive and finds the ball quickly. Showcases good power at the point of attack and delivers a jarring punch on contact. Is a gifted pass rusher off the edge. The Bad: Is a good lateral athlete but lacks some explosion out of his breaks in coverage. Had some trouble staying healthy at USC, and his durability might be an issue.
Positives: Very driven, determined and disciplined. Plays with balance and does a good job protecting his lower body. Thickly muscled and physically equipped to bang in a big man's game. Bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times at the Combine. Stacks with force - can control blockers, dig in and set the edge. Plays with power and can press off blocks and shed. Hard-shouldered with very good take-on strength. Shows no hesitation blasting the lead blocker. Intense. Plays with abandon. Has a 35-inch vertical jump. Negatives: Has dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his career. Can be fooled by misdirection, is overaggressive in pursuit and runs himself out of plays - does not have elite instincts. Lacks twitch and does not show an explosive, upfield get-off. Does not always bring his feet as a tackler and gives up yards after the initial hit. Tightly wound and overly muscular. Shows stiffness in his movement and has tight ankles. Often leaves the field on third down - does not offer significant value as a pass rusher and is rigid in coverage. Did not look very natural inside when he filled in for an injured Rey Maualuga and seemed slower adjusting to movement from both sides. Durability always could be an issue given the violent way he plays. Summary: Some scouts worry about Cushing being more of a bodybuilder than a football player with his strict eating regimen and shredded physique, and durability long has been an issue. However, when healthy, he is all out all the time and leaves everything on the field. Intense competitor with an aggressive football temperament. May fit most naturally as a thumper inside for a "30" front such as that of the Dolphins or Chargers, although it may require a short adjustment to handle movement coming from both sides. Otherwise, he has proven he is comfortable tilted on the edge handling tight ends. Grade: First-round talent.