The forecast for Saturday’s South Carolina-Georgia game in Athens, Ga., calls for a high of 85 degrees with a 10 percent chance of showers.
That might not be enough heat to slow down Jadeveon Clowney.
The Gamecocks’ All-American defensive end and Heisman Trophy hopeful came under heavy criticism for his performance in last week’s season-opening win against North Carolina.
The 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior recorded only three tackles, and no sacks or tackles for loss. He did have three quarterback hurries against the Tar Heels, but was often seen resting with his hands on his hips.
With a game-time temperature of 93, and high humidity, Clowney wasn’t the only player who appeared to be winded. But he was the one who was roasted on Twitter and Facebook for his conditioning, or lack thereof.
“I think one thing he learned is that the camera is on him all the time now,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “It wasn’t on him last year, it was on him on the replays after he made sacks, big plays and stuff like that, but every play the camera is on him. So he knows that and hopefully he is ready to go.”
After the game, Clowney wasn’t fazed by the reaction. Plus, he said he had a stomach virus leading into the game.
“It doesn’t matter. We got the win,” he said. “Did you see the score? That’s all that matters.”
What the critics didn’t mention was that North Carolina often used two men to block Clowney, and the Tar Heels’ fast-paced offense
often ran plays away from him.
“I was pretty tired, but you have to play through that,” Clowney said. “I was still coming off the ball and that’s what matters. I might be bent over sometimes but when that ball snaps, I was getting off.”
Stopping Clowney and the rest of South Carolina’s defensive front will be a top priority for Georgia.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line allowed quarterback Aaron Murray to be sacked four times in Saturday night’s 38-35 loss at Clemson.
Former Georgia great David Pollack, now an analyst for ESPN, posed this question on Twitter.
“First thought on Georgia/USC next week is how & the heck is Georgia’s Oline going to block Clowney/Quarles & Sutton?”
With Clowney and linemates Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton, the Gamecocks’ defensive front is its primary strength. The team is less experienced at linebacker and the secondary.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday he has several options to try and stop Clowney.
“There’s a lot of different things you can do on pass protection. One of the things is that if you slide your protection towards a guy like that, you free up your tackle not to block him one-on-one,” Richt said.
“Your tackle basically is responsible for taking him on an outside rush, but if he makes a move inside of him, there will be a guard waiting for him, so that’s one way.”
Using a tight end in blocking schemes and getting rid of the ball in a hurry are also strategies the Bulldogs will employ, Richt said.
In South Carolina’s 35-7 blowout win last year in Columbia, Clowney had four tackles, including one sack and two tackles for loss.
With all eyes on Clowney again this week, Spurrier has no doubt his star will be up for the challenge.
“J.D. is ready to play,” Spurrier said. “It was a hot day last week as we all know, and sometimes the heat effects people in different ways, it affected him no question about it and hopefully we can get him a little bit better prepared physically to go the distance against Georgia.”