Opening night of the college football season may not include one of its biggest stars.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has told reporters that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney may miss the opener against North Carolina on Aug. 29 with a sore shoulder, according to David Cloninger of GoGamecocks.com and The State: "And right now, Clowney’s got a bruised shoulder. If it doesn’t come around real soon, we may play without him in the first game."
According to the report, Clowney and wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd missed practice on Monday with minor injuries, but both were seen walking around and Clowney even stopped to joke with reporters.
Spurrier doesn't seem to buy the notion that the trio is truly too hurt to practice, noted Cloninger, commenting, "We got a bunch of hurt guys that act like they’re really hurt. Right now, they may not play."
When asked if he was trying to motivate some of his stars, Spurrier abruptly ended the meeting with reporters, saying, "I don’t know. Why don’t y’all go talk to them? I’ll handle it, I’ll handle it. I’ll handle those guys. All I’m trying to say, if they can’t play, we got plenty of guys who can play, so we’re not depending on them."
Is that a threat from the Head Ball Coach? You bet it is.
UPDATE: Tuesday, 2 p.m. ET
Spurrier told Cloninger after Tuesday's practice that the trio was back, and that the minor dust-up was his fault.
Jadeveon’s doing fine, Bruce is doing fine, Damiere is doing fine. They had a communication problem, they didn’t know they were supposed to be out here watching practice, so I’m the dummy on that. Now they know they’re going to be out here watching practice. We had a communication problem and we’re ready to go.
All three of them were out here. They did not all practice. They’re injured. They weren’t in the locker room jivin’ around and playing on their cell phones, like they were last night. That’s my fault.
Cloninger wondered if all three would be ready for the team's Aug. 29 opener, and Spurrier responded uncertainly with, “Sometimes those hamstring injuries can linger and linger. If these other guys out here look like they’re ready, we’ll play them.”
---End of Update---
Clowney missed a practice earlier this fall with a knee injury, and he sat out the spring game with various ailments but still managed to catch a touchdown pass from the sideline.
If some of Spurrier's bigger-named players, including his superstar Clowney, aren't giving 100 percent and are looking to bail from the final two-a-day of fall camp, that's a terrible precedent to set.
This is classic Head Ball Coach to not let his players get too comfortable with their situations, even if one of them is a Heisman Trophy candidate at defensive end and a sure-fire top draft pick in 2014. It's a motivational tactic and intended to send a message, plain and simple.
Will Clowney really sit versus North Carolina?
If his shoulder injury is minor, of course not.
North Carolina has a potent offense that averaged 485.6 yards a game, the second-most in the ACC last season, and returns an experienced quarterback in senior Bryn Renner. South Carolina needs Clowney, and Spurrier won't sit him unless he truly is hurt.
If Clowney is holding out on his team during practice, he had better get his mind right. That not only looks bad within the program, but it's a bad look for NFL scouts who will nit-pick everything he does between now and the draft.
Opening night in Columbia just got a little bit more interesting.