Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Jadeveon Clowney came into the 2013
season as one of the most hyped defensive players in recent memory, but it's
the All-American's lack of play that has him in the headlines of late.
Much to the surprise of pretty much everyone involved with the South Carolina
football program, Clowney was a late scratch from last week's contest versus
Kentucky, citing that his bruised ribs were too sore for him to play despite
participating in practice all week long.
Clowney's absence from the game sparked numerous rumors about his commitment
to the team and whether or not he's protecting his NFL Draft stock by not
giving his all for the Gamecocks this season, but head coach Steve Spurrier
got out ahead of the situation in his weekly address to the media, chalking
the whole thing up to a simple miscommunication.
"Let's talk about Jadeveon briefly," Spurrier's statement began. "Jadeveon has
a muscle strain near his rib area that caused him to miss the game last week
against Kentucky. He was in pain and it was diagnosed later and obviously, we
all handled it poorly, all of us did. The proper procedure and protocol when a
player is hurt, he tells the (athletic) trainer or doctor, 'Hey, I can't go,
this thing is hurting, there's too much pain,' and the trainer tells me, the
head coach, he's out, he's not playing and I say, 'OK, he's out, he's not
playing.' Simple as that. But we all didn't do that and it caused some
confusion, we didn't know he wasn't suiting up until a little later, so we
didn't handle it well."
The rationale seems believable enough. Ultimately, no one can determine if
Clowney is fit enough to play better than himself. After missing practice
early in the week, Clowney returned to the field on Wednesday and participated
in full. He managed to clear the air about the miscommunication, attempting to
put to bed the speculation that he is not 100 percent committed to the
Gamecocks' quest for the SEC title.
"I know my situation with the team," Clowney said. "Our goals are still out
there for us. I dedicate myself to this team and this university. I'm just
going to do what I have to do to get better and come back out there and play."
"I come out here every day since I've been here. You all should know that by
now. I just take it one day at a time. I'm here to play for my team and my
Saying what the media wants to hear is one thing, but actually coming through
on your word is something completely different. Even after a full day of
practice on Wednesday, Clowney remains questionable for Saturday's road test
versus Arkansas, and despite promising that he hasn't yet played his last game
for South Carolina, he seems to be in no rush to get back to action.
"I will be back on the field," he said "I just don't know how long it will
take to get back but I'm going to be back playing. I'm going to keep doing my
thing, keep playing football and moving forward."
The vague nature of Clowney's statement won't ease concerns from South
Carolina's fans, especially considering this is not the first time his effort
and commitment to the team has been in question. After a truly dominating 2012
campaign in which he racked up 23.5 TFL and 13.0 sacks, while winning the SEC
Defensive Player of the Year award, Clowney has opened this season sluggish by
comparison with only 2.0 sacks in four games. While he has shown signs of his
old self, he has also faced several double- and triple-teams, and has been
accused of not giving it his all on every play.
The biggest question involving this case is whether or not Clowney is
justified in taking it slow this season. Had NCAA rules allowed his departure
from school following his sophomore season, Clowney most assuredly would have
been due for a huge pay day as a top-five pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, if not
the No. 1 overall selection. Is it right for him to make calculated moves with
regard to his future while still enrolled at South Carolina and a member of
the football team?
There are valid arguments on both sides. As an amateur athlete who has earned
a lot of money for his university through jersey sales, ticket sales,
television rights, and enrollment, Clowney is certainly entitled to seek
what's best for his future financial situation, and an injury has the
potential to change all that but quick. Clowney saw first-hand last season how
catastrophic these turns can be when teammate Marcus Lattimore, arguably the
best running back in the country, went down with a torn ACL to see his first-
round draft status disappear. On the other hand, Clowney is far from the only
high-profile NFL prospect in college football this season, yet others don't
seem to be putting the cart before the horse.
Although the situation still needs to play out before we learn more, Spurrier
came to the defense of his star player with some head-turning comments about
"Let me say this about Jadeveon: if he never plays another snap here, we all
should be thankful and appreciative that he came to South Carolina," Spurrier
said. "We've won 26 games, two 11-2 years, the greatest seasons we've had in
the history of this school, 120 years. So, none of us need to be upset at
Jadeveon, none of us. He's played his part tremendously. And I am all for
Jadeveon and his future and when he's ready to play; we are going to put him
out there. I just want to clear the air that Jadeveon, all those No. 7
jerseys, all the money he's made for our school, he's been a tremendous,
important player and we all, every Gamecock, including me, and the coaches and
everybody out there, we need to be appreciative that he chose South Carolina.
He could have gone anywhere in the country and he's a big reason that we've
had those seasons and he's trying to do all he can to get ready to play."
It's an interesting statement from the Ole Ball Coach, as he's essentially
admitting to the preferential treatment of Clowney. He knows, to a certain
extent at least, that the university exploits its high-profile players for its
own good and that he understands that a player must ultimately look out for
himself, but at the same time the statement cannot be going over well with
some of the players in the locker room. Should they be 'thankful' and 'proud'
if Clowney bails on the team?
Could Clowney inadvertently start a new trend among young superstars, giving
them the option to sit out their junior years to protect their draft stock?
It's certainly possible. A version of this effect already exists in
basketball, with players like Brandon Jennings opting to play a year in Europe
rather than the NCAA to satisfy their NBA prerequisites. All we know for sure
is that Clowney can put these rumblings to bed by simply returning to the
field as soon as possible, giving his all for the program and further proving
that he's one of the nation's most dominant forces.
The Sports Network