INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — If nothing else is learned about Adrian Clayborn here this weekend, it’s clear that his junior season at Iowa earned him an NFL combine invitation.
Twenty tackles for loss and 11.5 quarterback sacks will do that for any defensive end. Clayborn’s 2009 was truly special, one of a kind, first-team all-Big Ten.
His 2010 wasn’t a thud, but it wasn’t 2009. That was one of the first questions out of the chute Saturday for the 6-foot-3, 281-pound former Hawkeye.
“Double teams, triple teams, tight ends chipping me and running backs chipping me,” Clayborn said. “There was a lot of different stuff going on. Frustration at the beginning of the season, not knowing how to take on that kind of stuff. There were a lot of different things.”
Clayborn’s disruption numbers dipped to seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, which, if you look at his Iowa career in total, were more typical.
“I was definitely still working hard,” Clayborn said. “It’s just tough getting to the ball when you’re getting it from all ways.”
Clayborn’s right arm is under the MRI this week. He was born with a disorder called Erb’s palsy, which caused nerve damage from his neck through his right arm. It doesn’t cause him any pain, but he has trouble fully extending that arm.
Needless to say, NFL teams are very interested in that arm. SI.com’s Don Banks reported that a NFL scout expressed worry about taking Clayborn because of the arm.
“It’s a nerve damage thing,” Clayborn’s agent, Blake Baratz told SI.com. “But it’s never become a focal point at Iowa. Are they (the NFL) going to look at it and pry it every which way? They will, as would I if I were investing millions in Adrian. But I don’t think it’s going to affect him. He didn’t even miss so much as a practice all those years in the Big Ten, and that speaks volumes.”
Still, NFL teams will wonder if he’s left-hand dominant and only able to play on one side of the defense.
“I’ve heard that too much this week,” Clayborn sighed. “It’s something that happened at birth. Nerve damage in my right shoulder, it’s not a big deal. I’ve been playing with it since seventh grade,
“Of course, the teams are going to be interested in it. I’m going through it all weekend, but it’s not really a big deal. Most of the teams I’ve talked to have said, it’s incredible that you’ve been playing through it.”
Clayborn did have his right shoulder go through an MRI on Saturday morning. Also, he won’t perform in the bench press here, but will during Iowa’s pro day on March 21.
So, those are a few of the kinks in Clayborn’s resume. The combine is about finding the negatives, but believe it or not, there are positives.
“He’s a three-year starter who is explosive, disciplined, and relentless in his play,” Ourlads’ general manager and national scout Dan Shonka said. “He is as good as any defensive lineman in the past several years to disengage a blocker and make a play. In short, he doesn’t stay blocked.”
Shonka said Clayborn could fit into a 4-3 — what he played four years at Iowa — or a 3-4. In a 4-3, he’d be a defensive end with a possibility to slide inside to tackle. He would strictly be an end in a 3-4.
Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year last season, has worked on his pass drops to fit into a 3-4 defense. Clayborn doesn’t see that as a role for him.
“Jokingly,” Clayborn said when asked about the outside linebacker possibility. “I don’t think I can get down to that weight, but it’s a possibilty. Whatever team picks me, I’m going to play defensive end or tackle.”
Three years of film at Iowa should speak to Clayborn’s power and burst, probably moreso than the bench press here. He will run here and hopes his speed and quickness grab some attention.
“I’m coming from Iowa, so people probably don’t think us country boys can move,” Clayborn, a St. Louis native, said with a laugh. “I’m hoping to show off my agility.”
For two of his three years as a starter at Iowa, Clayborn lined up across from Bryan Bulaga, former Hawkeye who started at right offensive tackle as a rookie for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, nearly every single practice. That didn’t hurt, Clayborn said.
It remains to be seen if production in ’10 hurts him. St. Louis Rams media tracked Clayborn heavily after he talked on the podium Saturday. The Rams have the No. 14 pick. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Clayborn going No. 20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There are questions he can answer. First-round projections might mean there aren’t any real worries about Clayborn.
“My mom can go online and look up stats from one year or another and make a judgment off that,” said Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who’s also at the combine. “What really matters is what the football people think.
“Adrian’s a hell of a football player. He was a leader on our team. He’s given nothing but his best effort the last two years.”
Tackles: 12 at Ohio State, 11/14/09
Solos: 9 vs. Georgia Tech, 1/05/10
Assists: 8, vs. Penn State, 10/02/10
Tackles for loss3, three times, last vs. Penn State, 10/02/10
QB Sacks: 2, three times, last vs. GA Tech, 1/05/10
PBU: 2 vs. Maine, 8/30/08
Blk. Field Goal:1, twice, last at Michigan, 10/16/10
Blk. Punt 1 at Penn State, 9/26/09
Touchdowns: 1 (blk. punt return) at Penn State, 9/26/09
Recovered Fumble:1 vs. Michigan, 10/10/09
Forced Fumble: 1, seven times, last vs. Wisconsin, 10/23/10
Defense Solo Ast. Total T/Loss Sacks QBH PBU Blk. FF RF
Freshman 3 17 20 2.5/11 2/10 2 1 1 1 0
Sophomore 15 35 50 8/47 2/22 2 3 0 1 0
Junior 36 34 70 20/107 11.5/87 9 2 1 4 1
Senior 19 33 52 7/42 3.5/36 6 1 1 1 0
Career 73 119 192 37.5/207 19/115 19 7 3 7 1
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