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Manziel? McCarron? No. Jadeveon Clowney is SEC’s No. 1 player

South Carolina's JadeveClowney talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference football medidays Hoover Ala. Tuesday July 16 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney talks with reporters during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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HOOVER, Ala. — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has won two BCS titles as a starter. But there’s little debate throughout the greatest league in the land about who’s the SEC’s No. 1 player. In fact, it’s not even close.

It’s Jadeveon Clowney. Without a second thought, most college football analysts will tell you South Carolina’s junior defensive end is the best player in the country.

NFL draft analysts will tell you he’s a potential No. 1 overall pick in 2014.

While everyone at SEC Media Days buzzed about the controversial Manziel’s scheduled Wednesday morning appearance here, it was Clowney who stole Tuesday.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier gushed about his off-the-charts playmaking ability. Florida coach Will Muschamp lobbied for Clowney to turn pro sometime — any time — before the Gators’ mid-November visit to Columbia, S.C., which of course can’t happen. Clowney’s teammates told stories about his 360-degree dunks on the basketball court and the cold, hard truth that no offensive lineman on this likely preseason top 10 team can even dream about blocking the 6-6, 270-pounder in practice.

But Clowney — who’d largely been protected from the media by South Carolina before Tuesday — stole the moment on his own.

For crying out loud, he arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel with a bodyguard. That’s always a clutch move.

He then killed it in front of the microphones, which made one wonder why South Carolina ever felt it had to protect him at all.

Clowney was bright-eyed and charming, confident and compelling. He spoke of his personal goals, which include more than the 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss he produced in 2012. He thrilled the masses with a confirmation of the rumored sub-4.5 40-yard dash he ran this summer, officially setting the number at 4.46.

He shrugged aside the talk that he was too promising an NFL prospect to risk playing college ball in 2013; that he should just sit out a year and wait for the money to come.

“I love football way too much,” Clowney said.

Best of all, he didn’t shy in the slightest from questions about Manziel. Unfortunately, South Carolina and Texas A&M won’t meet unless it’s in the SEC title game. If that should come about, though, can Clowney put the clamps on Johnny Heisman?

“Can I get him?” Clowney said with a laugh, as though the question itself was ridiculous. “Yes. I can get him.”

In case you need a little convincing, go on and give this ( another look.

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