Jadeveon Clowney's junior season at South Carolina is becoming more of a soap opera by the week. For one of the most talented players in college football, the discussions surrounding Clowney this season rarely have seemed to regard actual football.
First, it was Clowney's conditioning after he appeared tired in the season-opening game against North Carolina, having to frequently come off the field. After the game, he told the public that he was fighting a stomach virus that caused dehydration.
Then, in following weeks, Clowney was slowed by bone spurs in his foot, which he declared would likely last the entire season but wouldn't stop him from playing.
Another stomach bug arose last week, and, finally, came Saturday against Kentucky when Clowney told head coach Steve Spurrier in pregame warmups that he wouldn't be able to play because of bruised ribs.
Clowney missed practice Thursday to rest his ribs, and the coaching staff believed he would be able to play against the Wildcats.
All of this might be just a bad run of luck for Clowney, but listening to Spurrier speak after the Kentucky game, there seems to be more here than that. Here's Spurrier after the game:
Spurrier opens by saying, "I don't want to get into all of that," which seems strange. What's there to get into if a player has an injury and just can't go? Why does it seem like such a sensitive subject?
Later he says, "If he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to, simple as that." That doesn't exactly sound like a coach speaking about a player who couldn't go because of an injury, but rather a player who, while banged up, just decided he didn't want to play.
Prior to the season, some argued that Clowney, who was still a year away from being eligible for the NFL draft despite ranking as one of the nation's best prospects as a sophomore, should sit out this season to avoid injury. It's difficult to imagine a player doing that, considering the questions it would raise from his teammates, let alone NFL front offices.
But doesn't that seem to be the mind of which Clowney is approaching this season? Asking out of Saturday's game to protect bruised ribs carries the perception of a player being ultra-conservative during his draft season (which, to be clear, is well within Clowney's right).
Credit Spurrier for saying, "Anytime a player says he's hurt, who are we to question?" That may have been his attempt for covering for Clowney, but this doesn't seem like a topic that's going to be simply washed away.
Clowney was asked after the game if he'll play next week against Arkansas and said, "I don't know."