This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Keep up to date on our Baker's Dozen series here.
Today we're joined by SB Nation Clemson blog Shakin' the Southland and blogger "figurefour," a.k.a Will Brown, to discuss the Tigers' standout defensive lineman, Da'Quan Bowers. As Brown explains, Bowers didn't walk into Clemson a hard worker or a dominant player.
"Bowers came into school not really knowing what it took to become a dominant collegiate player. I remember hearing stories about his eating habits prior to his freshman fall camp and being concerned. Bowers' work ethic his first two years was suspect and marred by obvious times that he took plays off. He was still a very good player, but was good because of pure athleticism, and was not at the elite level because of what appeared to be lack of drive/desire. Additionally, his fundamentals were questionable, and he relied mostly on talent alone to make big plays."
His career took a dramatic turn last fall, however, and Bowers has rocketed up draft boards ever since. Bowers' father, Dennis, died in August of 2010. That type of event would have a profound impact on any young man, and in Bowers' case provided extra motivation to realize his talent.
"The thought of wasting all of his pure talent, coupled with deaths very close to him/his family, motivated Da'Quan. In fact, some of the last advice his father gave him before he passed in late summer/early fall was that he needed to take football more seriously to avoid wasting all the ability he possessed.
"Bowers came out motivated and dominated the line of scrimmage. Bowers went from being a good player to a game-changer, and really focused on the game and how to properly play it following his father's death. He really matured [last season], becoming a player who was driven to be a game-changer in the toughest of situations. "
His 2010 season vindicated his hard work and showed his immense talent.
"What you saw in 2010 was a man possessed. Bowers shored up his fundamentals, playing at a lower pad level and focusing solely on his responsibilities while on the field. This put him in better position to make plays and benefit from defensive scheme advantages by being in the proper place at the correct time. Bowers has always been a beast on the field who could go through or around any offensive lineman. In 2010, he became a more disciplined player and turned into one of the best collegiate football players in America."
That type of talent, size, and (eventually) desire forced opponents to scheme around the imposing defensive lineman.
"Early in his career he won battles by sheer strength and speed from the end position. In '10 he became a better team player with talent, fundamental soundness, and discipline and drew attention each snap of the football. Bowers and the Clemson defensive line were outstanding and kept Clemson in a lot of games this season despite being on the field for large periods of time. The Clemson defense was put in some really tough positions last season and this guy came up big."
As far as Bowers' character concerns, there are few outside his work ethic questions.
"Bowers has an excellent reputation. He is a member of a gospel band and travels all over the Southeast playing gospel music. He stayed committed to this group despite the hectic lifestyle of a college football superstar. I've yet to hear a bad story from folks at Clemson or people from his hometown of Bamberg, South Carolina.
"If he continues to be as driven as in '10, he will have a very successful NFL career. If he goes through the motions and reverts back to pre-'10, he will be a roster player who will get some quality snaps and that's all. With Bowers, it is not about physical ability, it is about drive and effort."
Brown did have one concern about Bowers, but it wasn't regarding his play or his character.
"Da'Quan had an injury to his knee, and it will be interesting to see how he rehabs it. He had knee issues a couple years ago and obviously rebounded well. Assuming all is well in that area, he has all the physical skills to be a playmaker in the pro game."
Asked for his lasting memory of Bowers, Brown responded not with a specific event but with a generality.
"I will say that memories of him tossing linemen around like dolls will stick with me for a long time. The best memory, though, is seeing his improvement over the course of his career, culminating in this past season's display of excellence."
Many thanks to Will Brown, "figurefour," and Shakin' the Southland for their thoughts on Da'Quan Bowers.