It is a misnomer that Clowney had a bad year. His stats were not that of his previous year and there was no way humanly possible that he could have lived up to the ridiculous hype that ESPN had put on him. When he failed to destroy people each week, the same ESPN pundits went out of their way to tear him down.
Even with all that, Clowney made some All American teams, one of them being the Coaches, which indicates they understood what was happening. Essentially, each team schemed against him every week, so he helped influence the game no matter what else happened just by being there. Instead of a lock down DB, he was a lock down DE and kept most plays away from his portion of the field.
Was he injured? - Suffered a rib injury early in the season, sat out a game due to it and it slowed him for several weeks. Had bone spurs which also slowed him most of the season.
Was it his effort level? - His effort was appropriate. When you face many teams that "catch and throw, dink and dunk it within a couple of seconds or so, it was frustrating to him and he did not chase down every play.
Our DC said early in the season something like the first 75 plays of the year, the opponent ran away from him around 56 times. Your stats will suffer.
Was he out of shape? - No. Many saw the first game in the year against UNC and saw him against a quick pass offense and in a few minutes start breathing heavily. Well, the good people of St. Louis has no way of knowing it, but Columbia, SC is one of the hottest, most humid places in the Summer. Walk outside, on some days, and it feels like you are swimming. It does not take long to sap your energy. Early in the year, it takes a little time to get into true game day playing shape. Additionally, our DL was not as stout as it had been in years past, so the QB pressure was much less. In 2012, Carolina was one of the top sack teams in the nation. In 2013, we had a fairly pedestrian year in stats. Additionally, there was one blatant cheap shot attempt by one of their players to take his knee out. On a passing play just ending well downfield, Clowney was standing still, with everyone else nearby, including the OB, watching it. The play may have even already been blown dead. A UNC lineman, laying on the ground, directly behind Clowney, launches himself into the back of his knees, rolling him up. It was a miracle he was not injured, but he got up limping a bit. No doubt this scared him a bit and made him more cautious the rest of the year, expecting more of the same.
Was it the result of double and triple teams? - That did not help. There were a few times he was quadruple teamed.
No offense to the Rams, but most Gamecock fans are hoping he goes to the Texans, and not just because he would be the first pick that way. Their owner is a graduate from Carolina and has done much good work for the school and he has drafted other Carolina players over the years. Additionally, with JJ Watt on the other side of the line, it would make their pass rush a true terror. Yes, they need a QB, but this draft has no franchise QB like a Luck or Manning and there should be a couple of serviceable ones left on the board by the start of the second round.
If he is still there at #2, take him. Best player available.