Jadeveon Clowney has sparked the NFL's age debate yet again this week after some have suggested that he might sit out the 2013 college football season to protect his body against further wear and tear in preparation for the 2014 NFL draft.
According to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, however, there is no doubt his star defensive end will be on the field for the Gamecocks opener in the fall.
The Associated Press first reported the old ball coach's comments about his star player (via ESPN). Spurrier feels that team competition and unity will trump whatever advice Clowney is getting about protecting his long-term NFL future.
His sentiments echo those of Clowney's mother, who also believes that her son will be in uniform for the duration of his junior season (as reported by Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated earlier on Thursday).
As the nation's top prospect in the 2011 recruiting class, Clowney immediately became a starter and impact player for the Gamecocks defense. He elevated his play his sophomore season, finishing with 13 sacks and a bone-jarring hit against Michigan in the Outback Bowl that continues to make the rounds on YouTube.
It's no surprise that Spurrier is showing faith in his star player, but the NFL's entrance policy remains a contentious issue. Clowney is just 20 years old, but he would have been a contender for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 draft if eligible.
Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer first circulated the opinion that Clowney should sit out in protest of the league's policy, and he was followed by others over the past few days on what the right course of action should be in these special cases.
ESPN's NFL Twitter account polled the fans about Clowney's impending decision to sit or play, and the results were on the side of Spurrier and Gamecock fans everywhere by a giant margin:
RESULTS!! 67% of you think Jadeveon Clowney should NOT sit out to avoid injury next year --> twitter.com/ESPNNFL/status…— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 13, 2013
While Clowney is one of the most feared pass-rushers in the nation, he's also just a sophomore.
He'll be a key piece to the South Carolina defense next season as Spurrier tries to rally the troops toward a run at the SEC East title—assuming he is on the field when the season starts.
If it's up to the old ball coach, he will be.