COLUMBIA — Jadeveon Clowney has people talking again – and for a reason no one expected when his final season kicked off six weeks ago.
The South Carolina All-American pulled himself from the lineup Saturday night a short time before the Gamecocks’ 35-28 victory Saturday night, saying pain from strained muscles around his ribs was too much to bear.
It’s the latest in a season of illness, injuries and ineffectiveness for the 6-foot-6, 274 pound Clowney, who figured to dominate the game like few others in college football. Instead, he has spent more time explaining why he hasn’t popped off more helmets as he did in his ESPY-winning hit of Michigan’s Vincent Smith at the Outback Bowl.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was unsure if Clowney would be ready to go against Arkansas (3-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) next Saturday.
Spurrier said his frustration came more from the way he learned his star defender would be out rather than him missing the game.
“Usually, the doctor or the trainer comes and tells you a guy will be out,” he said. “That did not happen last night.”
“On the other side,” Spurrier continued, “if a player’s in pain, I don’t want him to play, none of us do.”
When asked about Clowney’s commitment to the Gamecocks, Spurrier replied, “You’ll have to ask him that.”
Spurrier’s kept Clowney on a short leash with the media since early August, letting him speak only after games. Spurrier said that would change this week to give Clowney a chance to explain his injury.
Bone spurs in Clowney’s right foot – it’s an injury he’s had since high school –have bothered him all year. He needed an IV preparing for Central Florida two games ago because of a stomach bug.
Spurrier on Tuesday defended Clowney, saying it’s was near impossible to live to the expectations that followed “The Hit.”
“It’s not a one-man game. It’s a team sport,” Spurrier said. “Jadeveon is playing hard, he’s playing well, I think he’s played very hard. Got two guys blocking him about all the time.”
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward believes Clowney will show his old self at some point this season. Until Clowney returns, the Gamecocks will count on other defensive linemen to make the plays.
Spurrier hasn’t spoken to Clowney since the game, although assistant coaches have and he expects Clowney will do what he must to get ready for Arkansas.
“Hopefully, with treatment and so forth he will be well enough to play this coming week but we will see,” Spurrier said. “It’s not a big story. He was in pain, couldn’t play. We will see if he’s going to be in pain and not play or not in pain and can play this week.”