Jadeveon Clowney is extremely important to the South Carolina defense, but there is more to the Gamecocks defense than Clowney.
As arguably the best player in the nation, Jadeveon Clowney receives a lot of hype, though the Gamecocks defense is not all about Clowney.
Clowney sat out Saturday's spring game with a neck injury and mild concussion, yet that did not stop Spurrier from throwing in some entertainment with a trick play to his star defensive end.
With Clowney standing on the sidelines, freshman quarterback Connor Mitch lobbed up a pass to the open field, and Clowney hauled it in, fell, then scrambled to his feet and trotted into the end zone.
Other than Clowney's trick play, he posted up on the sideline and watched his defensive teammates go to work.
While Clowney has a major impact on the Gamecocks defense, there is a lot of talent outside of Clowney.
Redshirt freshman linebacker T.J. Holloman made a couple of solid tackles and showed an overall strong football awareness while commanding the middle of the field on defense. Holloman is practicing well and performed to expectations in the spring game, which should lead to a significant role in the fall.
Besides Holloman, South Carolina has a group of very athletic linebackers.
Sophomore Kaiwan Lewis had three tackles in the spring game, showing promise in the middle of the linebacking corps.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Kelvin Rainey just switched to the position from tight end. Yet, Rainey made some good plays and tackles in open space. With some more time this offseason, Rainey should be able to contribute regularly to the defense.
According to the South Carolina Athletics postgame quotes, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said, "We saw redshirt freshman Kelvin Rainey running around making some plays today. They are young guys that haven’t played the position. I feel like we made some progress there."
Many of these players are stepping into new roles as starters, but this team is full of talent beyond the likes of Clowney.
Redshirt freshman free safety Chaz Elder, had an impressive showing at the spring game, which could translate to playing time in 2013. Elder intercepted a Dylan Thompson-thrown ball over the middle and did a good job of covering the deep parts of the field.
Safety was a main aspect of Saturday's spring game, so blitz packages and rushing the quarterback at full speed were out of the question, though the defensive line had some good moments despite playing without Clowney.
Redshirt junior Sharrod Golightly and redshirt freshman Jordan Diggs showed their versatility and athleticism to play the "Spur" linebacker position. The spur position will be a key slot to fill with solid play, and both of these players have the talent to make an impact.
As a whole, the coaching staff elected to sit most of the defensive starters to avoid any injuries. Though the players who contributed in the spring game did show some promise, despite a rough showing by the defense as a whole.
According to the South Carolina Athletics postgame quotes, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said, "Regardless of what Coach Spurrier does, we still have to call and play our defense. The spring game is about having fun and trying not to get guys injured. We put some young guys out there to try to execute some simple defenses and coverages and see how they perform."
Ward worked with what he had in the spring game and got to see what was working and what was not. Now Ward can look forward to using all of his defensive players and form up a squad that will be full of talent.
The presence of Jadeveon Clowney is always going to be huge for the Gamecocks, but it is good to know that there is a lot of potential outside of the nation's best player.