COLUMBIA - Even before Paul Finebaum arrived in Columbia for South Carolina's spring game Saturday, he knew he had to apologize.
The polarizing sports talk radio host bypassed Rock Hill on Interstate 77, driving to Williams-Brice Stadium from his home in Charlotte, and thought of Jadeveon Clowney. In his first trip to Columbia since calling Clowney "the biggest joke in college football" last season, Finebaum took a moment to say he was wrong.
"When you're a commentator, you speak your mind. You don't get mulligans," Finebaum said. "If there was something I could take back, it would be that moment. . I deeply regret it.
"It was the wrong thing to say for someone in my position. Just because you think something at the moment doesn't mean you should say it. I knew better, and I said it, and I think it was hurtful, and I'm truly sorry."
Finebaum attacked Clowney following South Carolina's win against Kentucky in October, after the All-American defensive end surprised coaches by sitting out with a rib injury. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was displeased with Clowney following the game, specifically that coaches weren't given more warning.
Three days later, Spurrier announced Clowney had a legitimate injury, calling it "pulled muscle tendons" near his ribs.
Finebaum said Saturday he interpreted South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's postgame comments and made conclusions without knowing all the facts. His "biggest joke" quip drew the ire of South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner, who publicly defended Clowney before South Carolina's game at Arkansas the next week.
Two days later, Finebaum said he called Tanner to discuss the incident.
"We had a great conversation," Finebaum said. "It wasn't one of these screaming matches. I just said, 'I want to explain to you, I didn't mean it.' And he explained to me what he said.
"I do regret not personally apologizing to Jadeveon Clowney, because frankly, I will. I should. And I'm going to make an effort to. I just thought I'd let everything cool down."
Finebaum made it clear he holds no ill will toward Clowney. In the future, he wished the All-American nothing but the best.
"I'm rooting for him," Finebaum said. "I hope he's the first player taken (in the NFL draft). I think he will be the first player taken."
Carson hurts shoulder
At the end of a 37-yard catch and run, South Carolina running back Shon Carson fell awkwardly on his shoulder.
Thus ended a promising spring, and began an uncertain summer.
"May have cracked his shoulder a little bit. Fell right on it," Spurrier said, shaking his head at the bad luck. "I don't know how you stop that. He just happened to fall right on it. Just a clean tackle, running down the field real fast, fell on his shoulder and hurt it.
"He's got some time, and hopefully he'll be ready to go. He was having an excellent spring."
No backup QB update
The spring ended without South Carolina finding a backup for quarterback Dylan Thompson. The competition between Connor Mitch, walk-on Perry Orth and Brendan Nosovitch will last into August.
"We'll let them go through the summer before we make any decisions," Spurrier said. "We may not make a decision until it's time for somebody to go in besides Dylan. Sometimes, we operate like that too. Sometimes the guys standing closest to me might get to go in."
Of course, Spurrier is joking. He'll name a backup eventually.
Mitch completed 7-of-11 passes for 108 yards Saturday. Orth was inconsistent, completing 6-of-10 passes with one interception and one touchdown. Nosovitch, known more for running the football, completed 4-of-11 passes for 97 yards.
"You know Brendan, his ball flutters a bit," Spurrier said. "We're trying to work on getting that ball spiraling a little better with him."
Finebaum picks USC
It wasn't much of an olive branch for South Carolina fans, but Finebaum picked the Gamecocks to win the SEC East this season.
In part, Finebaum joked he was tired of being ribbed by Spurrier when he makes incorrect picks against his team.
"I'm going to get it out of the way right now: South Carolina will win the East this year," Finebaum said. "So I don't have to deal with Spurrier. And, by the way, I actually do believe it.
"I just think he's got it together, and I think this is going to be a huge year for the Gamecocks."
Of course, preseason predictions made in April don't hold much weight. Need proof? Finebaum also picked South Carolina to win the SEC East last season.