First he had a tummy ache. Then his foot hurt. Now he’s got a “bruised rib.”
But are these “injuries” – all of which have ostensibly been sustained by Jadeveon Clowney this season – really symptoms of a larger disease? Is the University of South Carolina’s superstar defensive end afraid of something? Specifically: Is he more concerned with protecting his 2014 draft status than he is with contributing to his current team?
We wonder … but here’s a news flash for Clowney: Unless he digs deep and rediscovers his commitment to the No. 13/14 Gamecocks, then his draft status is going to start dropping like a Led Zeppelin.
The whispers about Clowney’s commitment to the University of South Carolina have been heard all season – and based on his less-than-inspiring on-field performance, they’ve been justified.
But after Clowney held himself out of the Gamecocks 35-28 win over Kentucky on Saturday – citing sore ribs as his reason – those whispers have morphed into a full-throated cacophony of frustration with the 6-foot-6, 274-pound All-American.
South Carolina’s coaches – including head coach Steve Spurrier – didn’t know Clowney was a “no-go” until right before the team took the field. Gamecock fans and the rest of the college football world had no clue he wasn’t playing until they saw him walk out of the tunnel during the team’s “2001” introduction without pads.
We fully expected the post-game press conference to feature Spurrier (hopefully a sober Spurrier) addressing Clowney’s status as no big deal – providing an explanation of what was wrong with his superstar, why it was necessary for him to miss the game (in which his team was a 21-point favorite) and assurances that he would be ready to go for South Carolina’s upcoming three-game SEC road trip.
That did not happen. Instead, Spurrier expressed frustration with Clowney – passive aggressively implying he was sandbagging.
“If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants,” Spurrier said. “But if he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. Simple as that.”
Wait … what? Isn’t Clowney on scholarship?
Meanwhile USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward – whose unit looked as helpless without Clowney in the lineup as it has looked with him on the field – said he was “totally surprised” by what happened.
Then there was Clowney himself – who told a reporter “I don’t know” when asked if he would be suiting up next Saturday in Fayetteville against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The following day Spurrier attempted to explain away his frustration.
“It was just we didn’t know he wasn’t playing until right before the game,” Spurrier said. “That is always a little frustrating. Usually the trainer or doctor comes and tells you this guy is out, and that did not happen last night. But on the other side if a player is in pain and can’t play, I don’t want him to play. None of us do.”
Sure … and in Clowney’s defense he did miss practice Thursday with his rib injury (officially diagnosed as a muscle strain). And theoretically speaking it would make sense for him to sit out against a big underdog like Kentucky with SEC road games against Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri looming over the next three weeks.
Here’s the thing, though: We’ve been writing “in Clowney’s defense” a lot this year … as opposed to writing about Clowney’s actual defensive play.
That has to stop … especially if the Gamecocks want to start moving up in the polls as opposed to watching teams pass them by each week.
Clowney is a once-in-a-lifetime talent – which is why he remains at No. 1 on NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper’s big board for 2014 (despite his lackluster, drama-filled 2013 season). But he needs to decide now whether he’s going to finish what he started at South Carolina or focus on going pro.
Because this half-in, half-out, half-assing it doesn’t cut it …
His coaches deserve better. His teammates deserve batter. His fans deserve better and frankly the draft scouts he’s hoping to impress need to see better.
Bottom line? It’s time for “Doo Doo” to sh*t or get off the pot.