South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's talent is not in doubt. For most of his life, he's been able to get by on the football field with sheer talent alone, and that hasn't been a problem. However, that can't last forever, and it's not terribly surprising that Clowney's effort has not always matched his talent levels:
"I used to get tired last year during games a lot," Clowney said. "Now I just got myself really in shape. That's all it was. I am not worried about my game, because my game was all right last year. I was just out of shape last year, but I am in shape (now)."
Last year, by the way, the out-of-shape Clowney finished second in the country in tackles for loss and second in the SEC in sacks. His defensive coordinator, Lorenzo Ward, will say just as much, too:
"JD doesn't play hard all the time, and he knows that. I tell him all the time," Ward said. "He plays hard when he needs to. The great thing about him is when he has to make a play, he will make it. But I want him to make those plays all the time. When you are in great shape, you will do that."
It's kind of unfair that someone can gain 17 pounds over one year's time, get faster, and still be considered out of shape, but that's what we're dealing with here. Hey, if I could do that just by virtue of my physical talent, I probably wouldn't give full effort on every play either.
There was some talk that Clowney, as well as Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd, could miss the season opener with minor injuries, but the real thrust of Steve Spurrier's comments seemed to indicate that he was upset with them over maybe milking their injuries a little bit. Considering the concerns over his effort levels, it seemed like this could be the start of something a bit troubling. Spurrier walked things back on Tuesday, though, as it turns out there was a miscommunication between the staff and the players:
Clowney and Byrd practiced. Ellington did not. But all were at the Bluff Road fields.
"All three of them were out here. They did not all practice. They're injured," Spurrier said. "They weren't in the locker room jivin' around and playing on their cell phones, like they were last night. That's my fault."