South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sat out the Gamecocks' win over Kentucky, reportedly with bruised ribs. But after the game, coach Steve Spurrier sounded like a coach fed up with excuses. The junior, who is among the top early-entry candidates for the 2014 NFL Draft, missed practice Thursday but was expected to play. In fact, he was announced before the game as a starter, and Spurrier and Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward indicated they were unaware Clowney wouldn't play until he informed them just before kickoff.
But then, Spurrier went into all of that:
"I will just say he told me he couldn't play, that his ribs hurt, couldn't run," Spurrier said. "Said, 'I can't play.' I said, 'That's fine, you don't have to play. We'll move on. He may not be able to play next week, I don't know. We're not going to worry about it. I can assure you that if he wants to play, we'll welcome him to come play for the team if he wants to.
"If he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play, simple as that. We were thinking he was going to suit up and play. He did not practice Thursday. Couldn't run. Said he couldn't play. Any time a player says he's hurt, can't play, who are we to question? He doesn't play."
Clowney has just 12 tackles and two sacks nearly halfway through the season, and has made far less of an impact than expected. He has been ill before two games this season, according to South Carolina coaches, and also has been dealing with pain from bone spurs in his right foot that will require postseason surgery.
Suffice it to say, however, that the Gamecocks coaching staff thinks more of quarterback Connor Shaw's toughness than Clowney's. Shaw, expected to miss a couple of games with a shoulder sprain suffered last week, instead practiced all week and started against the Wildcats, completing 17 of 20 passes for 262 yards.
It will be interesting to see if or how Clowney responds to what would appear to be a challenge from his coaches. The Gamecocks travel to Arkansas next week.