Remember back this summer when everybody wondered if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's head was in the game and we were all waiting for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to continue to harass opposing quarterbacks?
Yeah, that seems like ages ago.
Clowney sat out South Carolina's 35-28 win over Kentucky on Saturday night with a strained rib muscle. That was news to the coaching staff, apparently.
Head coach Steve Spurrier said Clowney's rib injury caused him to be a late scratch, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Spurrier says Clowney told him just before game he couldn't play. "I will just say he told me he couldn’t play."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward echoed those sentiments, according to Kendall:
DC Ward: "I was totally surprised" when Clowney said he couldn't play.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
Spurrier asked if Clowney's commitment is fully on the #Gamecocks: "You'll have to ask him that. I can't speak for Jadeveon."— Ryan Wood (@rwood_SC) October 6, 2013
Has Clowney quit on his team and quit on college football?
It certainly appears so.
An unusually powerful microscope is on Clowney this year thanks to his status as the near-unquestioned No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Some of the criticism facing Clowney is unfair, since this is really the first time in college football we've seen what defensive ends go through on a down-by-down basis.
But that doesn't excuse taking plays off, skipping practices and tapping out of games before they start—all of which Clowney has done in the first month-plus of the season.
There's a growing divide between Clowney and the coaching staff. If that exists, then it surely exists in the Gamecocks locker room—where Clowney's teammates have worked hard to put the team in position to capitalize on back-to-back 11-win seasons and break through that glass ceiling and win the SEC for the first time in program history.
The junior from Rock Hill, S.C., has been solid this season but hardly mind-blowing. He has 12 tackles (three for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble on the season.
So when will Clowney be back from rib injury?
It appears that the ball is in Clowney's court, according to Spurrier (via Kendall):
Spurrier on Clowney: "If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
More Spurrier on Clowney: "If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play, simple as that."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
So what does Clowney want?
It's not a stretch at this point to assume Clowney is putting himself in front of the team's best interests based on what South Carolina's coaches are saying.
When does that reach a boiling point? Spurrier knows he needs his star defensive end on the roster, but if he's dividing the locker room, his presence will do more harm than good.
It isn't the Manziel circus; it's the Clowney circus this year in the SEC.
I don't think Spurrier is willing to be the ringleader for much longer.