Steve Spurrier may bench Jadeveon Clowney for first game against North Carolina

Photo: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The rest of the sports world may be laughing, but the Old Ball Coach does not seem amused. Three of Steve Spurrier’s top players at South Carolina in 2013 — wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd, as well as Jadeveon Clowney (yes, that Jadeveon Clowney) — have all been sitting out of recent practices nursing injuries.

The experts we see on television and the Gamecocks fans looking forward to an SEC title run may giggle or scoff at the prospect of Spurrier choosing to sit Clowney for even a moment longer than he needs to. However, such seems to be the case.

Ellington and Byrd are both suffering from hamstring issues, while Clowney’s problem at the moment seems to be a bad shoulder. If any of the three do not get better quickly, Spurrier expressed doubt in their ability to get onto the field for the Cocks’ opener against North Carolina.

“We got a bunch of hurt guys that act like they’re really hurt,” Spurrier said after Monday’s evening practice, the last of No. 7 South Carolina’s first two-a-day session. “Right now, they may not play.”

He was speaking in generalities at first, but then called out each of the three players by name.

“Damiere and Bruce tried to run this morning, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re out the first game, the way their hamstrings are coming around,” Spurrier said. “So we’re planning on playing, maybe without them. And right now, Clowney’s got a bruised shoulder. If it doesn’t come around real soon, we may play without him in the first game.”

So there you have it: Every South Carolina fan’s worst nightmare for the 2013 season. Clowney is entering his junior campaign with a real shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. An otherworldly season would make him the first exclusively defensive player to make that a reality.

He needs to play in all the team’s games, however – and he needs to lead his Gamecocks to victories. Yes, South Carolina is ranked within the top 10 to open the year, and no, North Carolina is not even in the top 25. The Tar Heels, led by coach Larry Fedora, are trying to surprise people in 2013, and this program has had months to prepare for and gear up for their cross-state rivals.

A victory will not be easy to come by, but Spurrier does not seem to be budging. Whether he is simply trying to light a fire under his players’ behinds or is seriously contemplating sitting the best player in the nation is something we may never know.

But Ol’ Spurrier seems pretty convinced he could do it.

“All I’m trying to say, if they can’t play, we got plenty of guys who can play, so we’re not depending on them.”

Video: Jadeveon Clowney flips blocking sled at first day of fall camp