COLUMBIA — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wasn’t happy with his team’s offensive showing on Saturday. Then again, it’s usually difficult to move the ball against Gamecocks All-American Jadeveon Clowney.
The South Carolina junior defensive end had two sacks – at least two other potential sacks were credited as incompletions – in the two-hour workout at Williams-Brice Stadium, a week after sitting out a scrimmage with a bruised shoulder. He also came in virtually untouched on several other plays to pressure Gamecock quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.
“We act like we didn’t even try to block Clowney today,” Spurrier said. “Maybe we’re afraid to block him, I don’t know. Hopefully, he’s that good, but I’ve seen other people block him. He doesn’t get to the quarterback every play like he did today just about.”
And that was just in two, short series before the 6-foot-6, 274-pound Clowney watched the rest of the session from the sidelines.
Earlier Saturday, the Gamecocks were picked sixth in the AP preseason Top 25, their highest ranking in history to start the season.
“That’s flattering,” Spurrier said. “I don’t know if we can live up to it or not, but we’ll try, though.”
The Gamecocks will have to get their offense going if they hope to build on the first back-to-back 11-2 seasons in school history.
Shaw, the senior starter, finished just 2 of 6 passing for 25 yards and an interception. He walked off the field shaking his right, throwing hand after the pick by freshman cornerback Jamari Smith. Shaw went to the locker room to get it looked at, then returned with ice on his right hand.
Shaw is coming off foot surgery last January that kept him out of spring workouts.
Thompson, Shaw’s backup, was 3 for 8 for 47 yards. The offense’s only passing touchdown came with freshman Brendan Nosovitch under center on a 10-yard pass to receiver Pharoh Cooper. That came after Nosovitch and Cooper hooked up on a 35-yard pass play.
Sophomore Mike Davis led the rushers with 53 yards on four carries.
Freshman David Williams had the only other touchdown in 12 series with a 1-yard run.
South Carolina’s five quarterbacks combined to go 16 of 37 for 180 yards with two interceptions and the one TD. The group, though, continued to compete without two of the team’s top receivers from last year in Bruce Ellington and tight end Rory Anderson, both with hamstring problems.
Spurrier was encouraged by his offense a week ago. But that was with Clowney on the sidelines nursing a bruised shoulder. Clowney missed Monday’s practice, too, drawing some pointed comments from Spurrier about how if the injury didn’t come around soon, he might keep his star lineman and reigning Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year on the sidelines when the Gamecocks open against North Carolina on Aug. 29.
Clowney returned to the field Tuesday and looked his disruptive self at the scrimmage.
“Hopefully, he’s going to make it tough for everybody,” South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “Jadeveon is a special athlete. We talk about him all the time, but he deserves all the praise he gets because he’s a really good football player.”
Spurrier did not make Clowney available to media afterward, although the good-natured player shouted to teammates given extra running, “Hey, I love to see that. All you fat boys” working out.
Clowney has been one of college football’s most talked-about athletes since his last game at the Outback Bowl, when he popped the helmet off Michigan runner Vincent Smith in South Carolina’s 33-28 New Year’s Day victory. The hit won an ESPY for year’s best play and the hype hasn’t slowed down as the season draws closer.
Spurrier says much of Clowney’s success Saturday was due to the Gamecocks “soft” offensive line. Davis, the Gamecocks tailback, thinks the sacks given up today will help the linemen when the games start.
“Clowney is a freak of nature,” Davis said. “So going against him and the defensive line we have is only make those guys better.”