Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic defended by Gamecocks coach

It's often said that practice habits are more telling of an athlete's work ethic than game performances.

And if that axiom holds true with Jadeveon Clowney, NFL teams have nothing to worry about where the former South Carolina star's "motor" is concerned. At least, that's how Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward chose to passionately defend Clowney's work ethic two weeks before the Houston Texans must decide whether to make Clowney the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.

"I never had an issue with him. If anything, you had to slow him down," Ward said, according to espn.com. "There were days that Coach [Steve] Spurrier would have to tell us to take him off the field or they weren't going to get anything accomplished on offense. And that's the truth because they couldn't get a pass off on him."

Surely, Clowney won't be disrupting NFL practices so much that he'll be asked to take a break. What the Texans and other teams interested in Clowney want to know is whether he'll be taking breaks on his own. Ward, however, was around Clowney on a daily basis for three seasons, and saw none of the effort issues for which the star pass rusher is reputed.

"I know JD because I coached the kid, and I recruited him, and that's not who he is," Ward said. "JD plays hard all the time."

Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp is the latest to question Clowney, on NFL Network's "Total Access."

"I look at Jadeveon Clowney's tape, and I don't see a guy who is playing the game with his hair on fire," Sapp said.

Sapp advocated Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as the top pick by the Texans, and echoed Heath Evans' concern that Clowney began declining to perform private workouts.

"You can blow your knee out walking your doggy," Sapp added. "So why would you not work out for a team that has twenty million-plus dollars for you?"

Ward's close relationship with Clowney, obviously, doesn't make him exactly the most objective observer. But it's not as though Ward thinks the star player is perfect, either. When it comes to film study, Ward said, Clowney has a long way to go.

"He's going to have to spend more time studying his opponent, the guy he's going against in that league, in order to beat him. And he didn't have to do that a lot in college," Ward added. "He's going to have to find out what that guy's weakness is and take advantage of it, if he's going to have success in the NFL."

If that's all that needs to be added to Clowney's game to bring about NFL stardom, there's no need for the Texans to hesitate.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.