COLUMBIA — It’s easy to tell that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes this is his best chance in nine seasons to win the Southeastern Conference title: He’s upped the wisecracks and toned down the hype for the Gamecocks and All-American Jadeveon Clowney.
Spurrier has rarely missed a chance to take a jab at in-state rival Clemson this off-season. He also abruptly closed fall camp to the public after three days because of what he decided were too many cellphone snoops and autograph hounds fixated on the SEC’s reigning defensive player of the year.
The clincher was when video went viral of Clowney flipping a two-man tackling sled with Gerald Dixon at the opening workout Aug. 2. Spurrier quipped it’s time to focus on all the Gamecocks and not just Clowney.
Clowney is “tired of it, and I think I am tired of it,” Spurrier said. “We’re just trying to get more into team stuff.”
And from Spurrier’s view, this might be the group that breaks through for South Carolina’s first-ever SEC crown and gives Spurrier his seventh league title overall.
Clowney gives the Gamecocks a great start.
South Carolina is 22-4 since the 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior signed two years ago.
He posted 13 sacks a year ago and closed the season with the hit that’s been talked about ever since – a helmet-dislodging stop
of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in South Carolina’s Outback Bowl victory last New Year’s Day.
Clowney’s only increased the frenzy with his work ethic and developing talent (he was clocked running a 4.4-second 40-yard dash this summer).
“If I get in shape, then I’m not worried about my game,” said Clowney. “Because my game was pretty good last year.”
Still, it’s going to take more than Clowney to succeed in the rugged SEC.
“Football is the ultimate team sport. It takes a lot of guys,” Spurrier said. “Jadeveon is going to do his part, but the rest of us, we have to do our part, too.”