COLUMBIA – The words “neck injury” being associated with All-American junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would seem, at first glance, to cause worries for South Carolina. But in this case, it’s not a big deal at all.
USC has one spring practice left, on Thursday, before Saturday’s spring game. There is a good chance Clowney will not participate either day, because of a sore back and neck. Clowney, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft, missed Saturday’s scrimmage because of the soreness and didn’t practice Tuesday.
None of this is of great concern to USC’s coaches – not the nature of the injury, nor Clowney missing a few practices more than four months before the season begins.
“His neck and back are still stiff,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Tuesday. “Whether he gets another snap (this spring), I don’t care.”
Clowney got hurt last week when he ran into defensive tackle J.T. Surratt.
“Me and him were trying to hit the running back at the same time,” Clowney said. “I didn’t see him out of the corner of my eye. I had already turned my head. He beat me to the spot. I ended up hitting him in the back and my helmet came down and pushed my neck.
“My back and my neck hurt me, but I should be OK coming out of spring ball. I should be coming around soon, hopefully.”
As for whether he will play again this spring, Clowney said, “That’s up to the coaches.”
USC coach Steve Spurrier has long used spring practices to develop younger players. Returning stars like Clowney don’t get a lot of snaps, even when they are healthy. They rarely participate in spring scrimmages or even the spring game.
The coaches have frequently dismissed the importance this spring of starting quarterback Connor Shaw, a senior, being sidelined all spring because of foot surgery. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said Shaw already knows the system well, and isn’t missing anything by standing on the sideline instead of going through practice reps.
So even if Clowney was 100 percent, he would probably spend most of the spring game on the sideline, with the other higher-profile players.
“Those older guys probably won’t get a lot of reps (in the spring game), if they get any,” Ward said.