COLUMBIA, S.C. — Jadeveon Clowney’s happy to get a rest with No. 12 South Carolina starting a week off — both for his aching right foot and from the spotlight that follows him around.
The Gamecocks All-American defensive end wears a walking boot to protect a recurrence of bone spurs in his foot, an injury he’s dealt with since high school. Clowney’s had all aspects of his game analyzed this season and has been criticized for his conditioning even though opponents have been running away from whatever side the 6-foot-6, 274-pound lineman lines up on.
Although he’s picked up sacks in his past two games, it hasn’t been the start many expected from Clowney, considered the game’s top player throughout the offseason.
The off week comes at “a great time,” Clowney said. “We need it.”
Few probably need it more than Clowney, who was expected to put up eye-popping stats this season after his helmet-flying hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith last New Year’s Day became the talk of college football.
In week one, TV cameras caught Clowney breathing heavy as North Carolina’s high-speed offense played away from him. Clowney, who said he was dealing a stomach virus, had three-tackles and no sacks in South Carolina’s 27-10 victory.
Clowney was kept in check a week later at Georgia in a 41-30 loss to the Bulldogs, although he did get his first sack of the season. The lasting image of that contest was Clowney breaking through the line and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray heaving a long pass down field that Justin Scott-Wesley caught for an 85-yard touchdown.
“Very frustrating,” Clowney said after the game. “I told the coaches you got to put me somewhere else, in the middle if you want to, somewhere I can make some plays, help my team get in position to win.”