COLUMBIA — A week from Friday, South Carolina will begin preseason practices for its ninth season under coach Steve Spurrier, who has taken the Gamecocks to greater heights than ever before with back-to-back, program-best 11-2 seasons, along with a 9-5 year and a first-ever trip to the Southeastern Conference championship game in 2010. Over the past three seasons, USC is 17-7 against the SEC, after going 18-22 in Spurrier’s first five seasons.

Now, can the Gamecocks take the next step and win their first SEC championship?

One guy who will play a big role in determining that is All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is almost certainly heading for the first overall position in the NFL draft after the season is over. USC needs Clowney, and though there might have been some concerns Tuesday when a report surfaced that Clowney had been in touch with a sports agency run by the rapper Jay-Z, Spurrier made it clear Thursday after his annual media golf outing that he does not have any worries about Clowney being ineligible.

“No, I do not,” he said.

USC looked into the matter and found that Clowney did not take any impermissible benefits. Clowney is allowed to talk to a sports agency if he wants to, but he can’t accept anything or agree to be represented by the agency while he is still playing college football.

“He can talk to anybody he wants to, as long as he doesn’t take anything,” Spurrier said. “He can’t take money. He can’t take anything of value from anybody. I think he knows that. It’s been preached to him since he signed with on us on Feb. 14 two years ago. He can accept everything everyone wants to give him right after our bowl game.”