COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- About the only thing that's slowed down
Jadeveon Clowney this summer is an old, high school injury. And no
one at South Carolina expects that to hold back his impact in the
Southeastern Conference this season.
The 6-foot-6, 254-pound Clowney was the country's No. 1 college
prospect last winter, choosing the Gamecocks over Alabama and
Clemson. He's been a rock star around town since enrolling last
month, swarmed by grade-schoolers at the library and honked at by
passers by when he's spotted.
Clowney has also drawn stellar reviews on the practice field, where coaches and teammates say he's shown fire, patience and the
ability to learn quickly. Clowney is "going to play a lot, he may even start, I'm not sure yet," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Jadeveon's doing well. He's doing what we expected."
Maybe even a little more. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing said Clowney is a humble young man who accepts coaching.
And of course, there is his talent --blazing speed off the ball that's Lawing's rarely seen.
"That's something that is God-given," said Lawing, a defensive line coach at South Carolina for 16 years.
Clowney spent the past couple of days on the sidelines recovering from a sprained ankle and a bone-spur problem in his left leg he dealt with in high school. When he returns, Clowney said he's comfortable filling whatever role the coaches want.
"I'm just really listening and following directions," he said. "Trying to get the playbook down and taking notes from the older guys. They're pretty good."
South Carolina's defense was a mixed bag last year. The Gamecocks were solid up front, leading the SEC with 41 sacks and
finishing third in the league against the rush in 2010.
But when opponents took to the air, they had success as South Carolina was 10th in SEC pass defense and gave up more than 23 points a game. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 12, but Spurrier knew for the team to repeat as SEC Eastern Division champs, they needed even more pressure up front.
That's where Clowney fit in. He was a remarkable performer at South Pointe, with 162 tackles and 29 1/2 sacks, 11 caused fumbles and five defensive touchdowns last season.
The Stallions also put him in the backfield and he had 20 carries for 274 yards and nine TDs. South Pointe went 38-6 during Clowney's three varsity seasons, winning one state title in Class 4A Division II in 2008.
But Clowney kept his perspective through it all, said York High
coach Bobby Carroll, who coached South Pointe through last season.
"He'll pull his weight and only get better," Carroll says.
While signing nearly two weeks after most college prospects seemed like a diva move to some, Clowney's mother, Josenna, said it
was her son's agreeable nature that caused the delay since he
didn't want to disappoint the runner-ups in Alabama and Clemson.
"He doesn't like to say no," she said.
Clowney has shown that despite the potential head-swelling attention -- some 4,000 fans cheered any Clowney rush at last
weekend's scrimmage -- that has followed him this summer.
Clowney said with a smile he'd never seen so many fans as the 2,000 or so who turned up for South Carolina's opening workout three weeks ago. It was a comfort level with the Gamecocks that drew him here, Clowney said.
"Everybody is here to win and accomplish something that hasn't been done here," he said. "I am here to help be a part of that."
Clowney's addition has bolstered South Carolina's offense and
defense. Junior defensive end Devin Taylor, all-SEC first-team last
season, said Clowney will draw so much focus from opponents that it
will free up other Gamecock linemen to make big plays.
"It's all four defensive linemen" who can cause problems for South Carolina's opponents, Taylor said.
Clowney has also increased the intensity at practice. Spurrier said early on at camp that no one on the Gamecocks offensive line
could block Clowney.
Left tackle Kyle Nunn going against Clowney in camp will improve offensive line play.
"It's fun battling back and forth because it's going to make us better," Nunn said.
Not every moment in the fishbowl has been special. Clowney was
briefly detained and handcuffed last March by Columbia police who
had a description of a burgler near. Spurrier used the incident for
what he considered a teachable moment, getting himself handcuffed
in front of TV cameras to show police were simply doing their job.
Clowney shrugged off the whole thing, preferring to focus on what's ahead for the Gamecocks. Spurrier said Clowney should bounce back quickly from the minor injury and be a big help to South Carolina, maybe even as a starter against East Carolina on Sept. 3.
Not that it matters to Clowney, who promises he'll give 100 percent whenever he gets in.
"If I play, I'm going to play good," he said.