Something is going on with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Sure, various maladies have affected him this season. A bone spur in his foot. A stomach virus. A strained rib cage muscle is the latest. But that doesn't seem like the full story.
For whatever reason or reasons, Clowney has barely been a factor this season for the No. 12 Gamecocks (4-1), which is incomprehensible given the conversation that surrounded him this past summer. Just six weeks ago, it seemed a given Clowney would be the No. 1 pick in next spring's NFL draft and at least on the fringe of the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Instead, Clowney has been a mystery man: Good, at times, but ineffective at others and overly frustrated that teams have game planned around him, running a large percentage of plays to the opposite side of the field. Clowney was so aggravated, in fact, that he suggested South Carolina's coaches were misusing him after a loss to Georgia in September.
Clowney sat out Saturday's 35-28 victory against Kentucky, telling coach Steve Spurrier during pregame warm-ups that he wouldn't be able to play. Spurrier acknowledged Clowney didn't practice Thursday but told reporters he was under the assumption Clowney would play until right before kickoff. Spurrier's follow-up comment, however, intimated there might be other issues involved.
"If he wants to play, we'll welcome him to come play for the team if he wants to," Spurrier said. "If he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to."
On a teleconference Sunday, Spurrier said it was "not a big story" and that he was just surprised by the timing of Clowney taking himself out of the lineup. But when asked if he thought Clowney was totally committed to and focused on the team, as opposed to perhaps his professional future, Spurrier went vague again.
"You'll have to ask him about that," Spurrier said. "I can't speak for Jadeveon."