COLUMBIA — A fan asked Steve Spurrier a couple days ago how South Carolina’s football team could be ranked in the preseason top 10.
His answer was simple.
“I said, ‘Because Jadeveon Clowney’s hit was shown the whole offseason,’” Spurrier said. “And every voter said, ‘Well, he’s probably going to do that every play of the game. He’s going to disrupt every offense. Nobody can do anything against South Carolina,’ and it’s not a one-man game. It’s a team sport.”
It’s a team sport, yes. And, yes, Clowney has fallen short of producing a highlight every play.
Eight SEC players have more sacks than Clowney’s two, and 22 have the same sack count.
USC senior cornerback Jimmy Legree’s four tackles for loss is one more than Clowney’s three.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on how Clowney has played this season. It’s a wide variety. To some, Clowney is overrated. To others, he’s had more impact on the game than any defensive player in the country.
On Tuesday, Spurrier weighed in on the topic.
“Jadeveon is playing hard,” Spurrier said. “He’s playing well. I think he’s played very hard. Got two guys blocking him about all the time. In fact, they had about seven guys blocking, and only sending about three guys out last week, UCF.
“No, he’s doing fine. He’s playing as hard as he can. He had two guys hanging out on him there. He’s doing fine.”
Spurrier said he spoke with Clowney and cornerback Victor Hampton in the wake of their candid answers about the defense’s struggles following Saturday’s game at UCF.
Without naming teammates specifically, Clowney and Hampton each said different areas of the Gamecocks’ defense had to play better. Clowney blasted the group, saying “we aren’t the same team as we were last year.”
“No, I’m not OK with that, and they didn’t mention names,” Spurrier said. “I think they said some guys needed to pick it up, and they’re two of them that need to pick it up too. Unless somebody plays a perfect game, unless somebody coaches a perfect game, then they just worry about their positions. We had a great talk about that, but they weren’t calling out any names.
“Sometimes coaches, we’ll say we struggled in coverage, we struggled here, we struggled in this, that and the other without trying to call out too many names.”
Sophomore receiver Shaq Roland’s suspension will be three games, though the reason is still unknown.
Roland was left behind in Columbia this week when USC traveled to UCF. Spurrier said the receiver will also miss this week’s game against Kentucky, as well as next week’s game at Arkansas before returning for the Gamecocks’ trip to Tennessee.
Spurrier has only ruled out possible infractions for Roland’s suspension. He said Roland was not arrested, did not fail a drug test, was not in academic trouble and had not violated any social media rules.
“University policy,” Spurrier said. “A violation of a university policy.”
Spurrier was unsurprised when Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin was fired over the weekend.
“They’re struggling, and it seems like alumni, or the boosters, or the fans out there, if they don’t like the coach and they want him to go and they’re losing, that’s going to happen,” Spurrier said. “So that’s part of the business.”
In their lone SEC meeting, Spurrier’s Gamecocks lost to Kiffin’s Tennessee team, 31-13, in Knoxville during the 2009 season.