It’s not hard to understand why Jadeveon Clowney is the go-to comparison for Josh Sweat. Both players are extraordinarily athletic. Both excel at getting after the quarterback. Both were highly sought-after recruits.
Even some of Sweat’s peers think of Clowney when they watch Sweat. As for Sweat himself, he’s followed Clowney but says he doesn’t compare himself to the No. 1 pick from the 2014 NFL draft. “He’s already there,” Sweat says of Clowney. The question is whether Sweat can ever reach Clowney’s level or whether it’s even fair to expect him to.
In simple terms, Sweat is a lot quicker than someone his size should be. At The Opening -- a prestigious recruiting event held in Beaverton, Ore. -- the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder was clocked at 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 4.25 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and recorded a 39.1-inch vertical leap.
That combination of size and speed has helped Sweat dominate at Oscar Frommel Smith (Va.) High and become one of the top pass rushers in the country. He is the No. 1 weakside defensive end and No. 5 player in the class of 2015, according to rankings on the recruiting website Rivals.com.
While Sweat is versatile enough to drop back into coverage and defend the run, he specializes in making like miserable for opposing quarterbacks. As Josh Rosen, the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2015, said in an interview with ESPN this summer, “It’s terrifying seeing someone that large run that fast and eventually think that he’s paid to hurt me.”
Sweat is so quick that he can explode past most of the offensive linemen he faces in high school, but for a glimpse of his strength, consider this exchange with Martez Ivey, the No. 1 offensive tackle in the class of 2015. On the second repetition, Sweat stones Ivey and throws him to the ground.
Adam Friedman, the Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com, says he thinks Sweat would excel as a weakside defensive end in a 4-3 scheme but that Sweat is also capable of playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
“His athleticism, his explosiveness, his overall strength, his progress when it comes to technique, and when you combine all that with his physical gifts -- he’s 6-foot-5, about 240 pounds -- that makes for an absolute terror [as] a defensive end,” Friedman said.
Added Richard Morgan, Sweat’s coach at Oscar Smith, “His speed and his aggressiveness and just his general tenacity that he has to get to the football are kind of just the inherent traits that he has, but he’s just a great all-around player.”
Sweat has missed the majority of his senior season after suffering a knee injury in September. In the second quarter of a game against Western Branch (Va.) High, Sweat collided with another player on an extra point. He dislocated his knee but did not suffer any nerve damage, his father, William Washington, said.
Sweat underwent surgery in October, and his goal is to begin running within five months. He’s been participating in physical therapy several times per week. “Right now it’s just keeping the motion, keeping the leg bending more and more so it won’t get stiff,” Sweat says of his rehabilitation.
Sweat, who plans to enroll early, says his top five schools are Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Virginia Tech and that he has no favorites. He has already visited Ohio State and plans to take other visits before making his decision sometime in December.
Time will tell if Sweat can reprise The Hit or alter opposing game plans to the degree Clowney did in college. But with Sweat’s athleticism and skill set, comparisons to the former South Carolina star aren’t going away.
Around the nation
- Heralded defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson posted a message to his Twitter account last Monday saying he had committed to Florida State. “Just commited to Fsu, thank you lord for the opportunity. #GoNoles,” the message read. A subsequent message from Jefferson’s account indicated the commitment was not legitimate and that his teammates had played a prank on him: “I swear my teamates play entirely too much, I have not committed, im commiting on National Signing day!” After a visit to Ole Miss in October, Jefferson tweeted that he “about” committed to the Rebels. He is the No. 2 strongside defensive end and No. 12 player in the class of 2015.
- Schools getting creative with recruiting material is nothing new. We’ve seen plenty of flashy fake magazine covers, but Georgia is taking a different approach. The Bulldogs apparently photoshopped an image of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay placing recruits atop his virtual draft board. This one features four-star athlete Kyle Davis, who is committed to South Carolina.
- Rocky River (Ohio) High School re-created the LeBron James “Together” commercial Nike unveiled prior to James’ first game since rejoining the Cavaliers this offseason. In the original version, James and his teammates huddle and discuss the importance of playing for Cleveland. People around the city then join the huddle as James leads a two-part chant. At Rocky River, one football player fills James’ role of leading students in a chant. The video was created in advance of Rocky River’s state playoff game against Central Catholic (Toledo) High School (Rocky River lost, 70-48). Coach Rick Adams told newsnet5 in Cleveland that other coaches were showing their teams the video for inspiration.
- FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., is set to host the inaugural State Champions Bowl Series this year. A Florida High School Athletic Association official confirmed the news to the Sun-Sentinel last week. Only teams that receive approval from their state high school associations and belong to the National Federation of High School Associations will be eligible. A selection committee formed by the Paragon marketing group -- which is staging the event with ESPN -- will choose the teams (national polls are among its criteria). The Sun-Sentinel notes that up to three Florida teams could receive invitations and that three games could be played on Dec. 27 (at noon, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and broadcast on ESPNU. According to The Palm Beach Post, Paragon will choose to reward participating teams with either a “$12,500 right fee, or a $25,000 merchandise account with an athletic shoe and apparel company or a sporting goods retail company, or a combination of cash and merchandise.”
- Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class continues to dwindle amid speculation over coach Brady Hoke’s job status. The latest blow came last week when Lawrence Central (Ind.) High inside linebacker Darrin Kirkland announced on Twitter that he has de-committed from the Wolverines. Kirkland is the third senior prospect this fall (and sixth player overall) to renounce his pledge from Michigan. The other two seniors are uncommitted four-star cornerback Garrett Taylor and four-star defensive lineman Darian Roseboro, who committed to North Carolina State after de-committing from Michigan. The Wolverines’ class now counts eight members, according to Rivals.com.
- There was a moment during Redford Thurston High’s state playoff win over Dearborn Divine Child (Mich.) High last week when Laymon Giddings-Whatley did not feel human. The Redford Thurston senior running back scored a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter despite multiple defenders attempting to tackle him, according to MLive.com. "It felt like I was just unstoppable, it felt like I couldn't be stopped," Giddings-Whatley said, according to the website. "That's how my ego was, but in real life, I'm still human. But I feel like a superhuman out there." Giddings-Whatley finished with 78 rushing yards.
- Nate Craig has prompted speculation that he may be considering de-committing from Auburn. The Tampa Catholic (Fla.) High junior tweeted last Wednesday that there was “news coming soon” regarding his recruitment. Craig, who pledged to Auburn in July, later discussed the tweet with 247 Sports affiliate Auburn Undercover. "I want to talk to my mom about some things," he said. The website reported that two sources close to Craig said Auburn currently is not concerned that Craig will back out of his commitment. Craig, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound wide receiver, is the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2016.
- Rashad Roundtree did not disappoint with his college announcement last week. The highly touted defensive back tweeted his choice during a ceremony inside an auditorium at his school, Lakeside (Ga.) High. Roundtree then stood up to reveal khakis dotted with mini Georgia bulldogs.
Roundtree, whose two other finalists were Duke and Ohio State, is the No. 2 safety and No. 24 player in the class of 2015. The Bulldogs now have 24 commitments in their 2015 class and are second, behind Alabama, in Rivals.com’s team rankings.
Five notable commitments
- St. Augustine (La.) High senior Stanley Morgan committed to Nebraska. Morgan is the No. 27 wide receiver in the class of 2015.
- American Heritage (Fla.) High senior cornerback Desmond Cain committed to Illinois. Cain is a three-star cornerback in the class of 2015.
- Valdosta (Ga.) High senior Josh Norwood committed to Ohio State. Norwood is a three-star cornerback in the class of 2015.
- Decatur Central (Ind.) High senior Tommy Stevens flipped his commitment from Indiana to Penn State. Stevens is the No. 15 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015.
- Navarro Junior College (Texas) offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson flipped his commitment from Iowa State to Texas.
Five notable performances
- Opp (Ala.) High’s Raheem Bonam accounted for eight touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving and one kickoff return) in a 70-36 win over Lamar County High.
- Bordentown Regional (N.J.) High’s Jahmiere Van Kline rushed for a school-record 382 yards and six touchdowns in a 47-20 win over Delran High.
- West Salem (Ore.) High’s Cade Smith passed for 188 yards and two touchdowns and added three rushing scores and 172 yards on the ground in a 47-21 win over Beaverton High.
- La Habra (Calif.) High’s Eric Barriere completed 12 of his 19 pass attempts for 221 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in a 56-26 win over Sonora High.