Known for delivering bone-crushing hits to opposing running backs and quarterbacks alike, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney may have just laid one on himself by deciding to sit out Saturday’s contest against Kentucky.
Although the junior had complained about pain in his ribs throughout the week, the Gamecocks were under the impression that Clowney would give it a go. In fact, even the PA announcer reported the 6'5", 274-pound All-American as a starter to the sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium crowd.
Instead, Clowney walked out onto the field in street clothes.
Needless to say, head coach Steve Spurrier was less than amused, per Gamecocks beat writer Josh Kendall:
Spurrier says Clowney told him just before game he couldn't play. "I will just say he told me he couldn’t play."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
Spurrier on Clowney: "If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward was more shocked than anything else:
DC Ward: "I was totally surprised" when Clowney said he couldn't play.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
Teammate Mike Davis did mention that Clowney had complained about pain:
Davis on Clowney: "He didn't say nothing about not playing. Throughout the week he was just telling me his rib hurt."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
This is just the latest setback for one of the nation’s most physical players, one whose hit against Michigan's Vincent Smith last year highlighted a phenomenal sophomore campaign in which Clowney racked up 23.5 total tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
Through four games this season, he has just three tackles for loss and two sacks.
ESPN’s Radi Nabulsi puts his slump into perspective:
Jadeveon Clowney is tied for 8th in tackles, not in the SEC, but on his own team. Gassed to start season. Now taking himself out of games?— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) October 6, 2013
It’s all a tough pill to swallow for Clowney, who many projected would have been the top selection in the 2013 NFL draft had he declared for it. In fact, as NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah reported earlier in the year, many league personnel considered him the best defensive prospect in college football in 10 years.
As ESPN’s Travis Haney notes, coming back for another year may not have been in Clowney’s best interests:
All those Clowney-should-have-gone-pro-stories now being legitimized. I didn't believe it would happen, but it has.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) October 6, 2013
Haney continues by stating that at some point, enough is enough when defending Clowney:
It was reasonable to give Clowney the benefit of the doubt for a couple/few weeks - but it just becomes something more at some point.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) October 6, 2013
Saturday’s events led B/R’s lead SEC college football writer Barrett Sallee to believe something bigger is at play here:
Is Jadeveon Clowney Hurt, or Has He Thrown in the Towel on the Season? http://t.co/zSSXhmSgep— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 6, 2013
SEC Football Blog editor Alex Haddon offered this take:
The big question in South Carolina: What is Jadeveon Clowney's problem? Or what is Steve Spurrier's problem?— Alex Haddon (@SECblog) October 6, 2013
Maybe Clowney sat out because of the weak level of competition?
Or maybe it was a battle of egos:
Clowney basically told Spurrier "this is my team old man, get outta my face"— Ron Bon Jovi (@Gr8WHThype23) October 6, 2013
Either way, it's an unfortunate set of circumstances for a South Carolina team still very much in the thick of things in the SEC East race.
With three straight road games on tap, Clowney better make an effort to get on the same page with his team.
Otherwise, the Gamecocks' season, along with his NFL dreams, could take a substantial hit.