What’s The Fallout From Clowney’s Injury?
When news broke that Jadeveon Clowney had hurt his neck, Gamecocks fans collectively held their breath. Fortunately, folks can exhale because the injury should not keep him out this fall.
In a collision with defensive tackle J.T. Surratt, the Heisman hopeful Clowney sprained his neck. Tuesday, after the injury, he was not cleared to practice due to stiffness in his neck and back. Now the decision has been made to hold out Clowney for rest of spring practice, which includes the Garnett and Black spring game on Saturday.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward dismissed any negative fallout from Clowney’s extended absence. “Whether he goes another snap (this spring), I don’t care.”
Ward told ESPN, “He would be cleared to play if it was a regular season game on Saturday. Jadeveon plays with a reckless abandon. He will not pull himself back on the field this year. That's not how he practices or plays. He will be full bore in the fall.”
Clowney was equally unconcerned about missing time. "It's not really about being out here," he said. "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."
Of course it’s easy to be flippant about a neck sprain when you have a $5 million insurance policy against major injury, as Clowney does.
It’s safe to say that of all the Gamecocks, Clowney is the player least in need of practice this spring. His absence might be a blessing in disguise.
With Clowney gone, there will be more practice playing time for defensive ends like freshman Darius English and sophomores Gerald Dixon and Mason Harris. Chaz Sutton, the defensive end who starts opposite Clowney, and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles are both established starters who will now have the opportunity to show off their skills without operating under the shadow of Clowney.
In total, the defensive line will be able to prove themselves in the Garnett and Black game. The offensive line won’t have to worry about double-teaming Clowney. If the defensive front can win a straight-up battle against the South Carolina offensive line, then it’ll prove that the defensive line is more than just one player.
Between players down the depth chart getting an opportunity and the defensive bigs being able to prove that they can get in the backfield even without the hurricane force of Jadeveon Clowney, the absence of the All-SEC defensive end months from a game that counts in the standings could benefit the team.
No matter what happens this spring, the fact that South Carolina will have a healthy Clowney come fall is the most important thing. Everyone knows what he can do. If other players rise around him, this could be another special season in Columbia.