Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn might have a decision to make.
You’ve seen the 6-foot-4, 283-pound defensive end terrorize the Big Ten. Two weeks ago at Ohio State, OSU defensive ends Cameron Heyward (who has said he would return for his senior year) and Thaddeus Gibson were the DEs everyone talked about. Clayborn outperformed both, racking up 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack to their combined eight tackles and half-tackle for loss.
In Iowa’s 12-0 victory over Minnesota, Clayborn was “The Matrix,” anywhere and everywhere. He had five tackles, but did so much damage — 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
After his pass breakup, which he nearly picked off for an easy TD return, Iowa radio analyst Ed Podolak noted Clayborn’s footwork, saying Clayborn moved his feet with the agility of a running back.
He has 9.5 sacks (tied for second in the Big Ten and 14th nationally) and 18 tackles for loss (third in the Big Ten, eight nationally).
“I just wanted to provide a spark for the defense this year,” said Clayborn, who plans to spend Thanksgiving break relaxing at home with his pit bull puppy “Ace.” “I had a great season, but you can always improve.”
So the question was asked, will you return to the Hawkeyes next season? Clayborn would be a fifth-year senior in 2010.
“I don’t want to talk about that right now,” he said.
The Hawkeyes have three juniors who’ll likely have the NFL decision on their minds — Clayborn, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and cornerback Amari Spievey. All earned first-team all-Big Ten Monday, with Bulaga being honored as the offensive lineman of the year by league coaches.
Bulaga said last week he’s made no decision. His mom and dad are handling calls and taking the mail on the subject. Spievey hasn’t talked about it, but his mother, Ramonda, said in an interview with The Des Moines Register it was something he might look into.
Last week, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper listed Bulaga as the No. 2 junior offensive tackle and Spievey the No. 4 junior corner.
They might not be talking publicly, but the wheels are definitely in motion.
Iowa will learn about its bowl destination about Dec. 6 and practices will start about that time. There’s a game between Jan. 1 to Jan. 5.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15, leaving Hawkeyes players about two weeks to clearly focus on the decision without football or school also on their minds. The Jan. 15 deadline is convenient for the NFL — after bowl games and before the mid-February draft combine — but not so much for college players, some of whom have had their seasons extended by two weeks.
Players can ask for evaluations from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, a totally private process. Those take time, too.
Whichever way they turn, make no mistake, the wheels are turning.
l Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said freshman running back Brandon Wegher suffered from an intercostal rib injury in the last few weeks.
l No decision has been reached on a sixth year for OL Dace Richardson.