The Associated Press February 14, 2011, 12:57PM ET

Top recruit Clowney picks Gamecocks live on ESPN

Top football recruit Jadeveon Clowney picked South Carolina over Clemson and Alabama on Monday, ending an extra 12 days of suspense.

The defensive end from South Pointe High School is considered the country's top prospect and was sought by schools from coast to coast. But the 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior took a different path than other recruits, delaying his decision from national signing day on Feb. 2 until Monday, his 18th birthday.

Things took even a bit longer as Clowney waited for ESPN, which carried his announcement live, to return from a break. Then a relieved Clowney ended the speculation.

"I'm going to the University of ..." he began, then reached for the South Carolina cap among the three finalists' hats on a nearby table.

"I'm happy," he said. "I wish I had done it on the 2nd."

"I'm just glad it's over," said his mother, Josenna Clowney. "Now, maybe we can get some rest."

Recruiting analysts thought Clowney had long favored the Gamecocks. Former teammates Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman start in the secondary, and South Pointe linemate Gerald G. Dixon signed earlier this month.

Clowney made it official at his school Monday with his family, dozens of reporters and ESPN cameras on hand to watch.

South Carolina confirmed it had received Clowney's letter of intent, making him the Gamecocks' 32nd signee. Coach Steve Spurrier planned to discuss the new addition Monday afternoon.

Clowney's announcement made a quick impact on the Gamecocks' rankings among recruiting services. They improved from 24th to 15th on ESPN.com, 20th to 18th on Rivals.com and 13th to 11th on Scout.com.

Clowney said he needed the extra time to ponder a decision among the three finalists. He visited each one last month and said his trip to Clemson the final weekend in January gave him something to think about.

Clowney is expected to make a quick impact on South Carolina's front line, which lost starting defensive end Cliff Matthews.

"I plan to make plays, lots of them," Clowney said.

His South Pointe coach, Bobby Carroll, has called Clowney unblockable, blessed with a quick first step and an unceasing motor that allows him to chase down players other ends give up on.

"There's no doubt that he's going to succeed," said Carroll, who recently left South Pointe for a similar job at York High.

Clowney won South Carolina's "Mr. Football" award given the state's top senior. He had 162 tackles and 29 1/2 sacks, caused 11 fumbles and scored five defensive touchdowns this season. The Stallions also put him in the backfield and he had 20 carries for 274 yards and nine TDs.

South Pointe went 38-6 during Clowney's three varsity seasons, winning one state title in Class 4A Division II in 2008.

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