Any missed time during the 2013 regular season is an absolute worst-case scenario for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and his South Carolina team. Thus, after spraining his neck when he collided with defensive tackle J.T. Surratt in practice, Clowney may wind up sitting out the Garnett & Black Spring Game.
“His neck and back is stiff,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said on Tuesday. “Whether he goes another snap (this spring), I don’t care.”
Therein lies the truth to Clowney’s situation: The All-American is so unbelievably talented that he does not necessarily have to practice to prepare to dominate the 2013 football season.
In fact, by his own admission, he will be fine physically, whether or not he plays anymore this Spring. That being said, Clowney understands where he still comes up short in terms of the mental aspect of the game.
“It’s not really about being out here,” Clowney told reporters. “It’s about learning the playbook. We put in some new stuff, so all I have to do is learn the play calls. The rest of it, I’ll catch up on.”
South Carolina is going to give Clowney all the time he needs to get healthy prior to kickoff in the fall. However, a stiff neck doesn’t mean he can’t read, and this could win up as a blessing in disguise.
Sometimes, especially players on the defensive side of the ball, struggle with new terminology because it hinders the instinctive aspect of the game. Defenders must react to what the offense is doing, and if Clowney is busy running through terminology and play calls, it could slow him down in the fall.
Spending a few days or weeks focusing specifically on the playbook could wind up making Clowney even more dangerous come August and September.
Of course, that is of very little consolation to the folks hoping to see Clowney rip someone’s head off at the Spring Game.
At least fans will be seeing him. Even if he doesn’t play, he will still be honored for winning the 2012 Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end. According to CBS Sports, Hendricks himself will be on hand to present the award to Clowney.