COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Injured All-American Jadeveon Clowney is working hard so he can play against Arkansas on Saturday, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said on Tuesday.
Spurrier said he'll know later in the week if Clowney has recovered enough from a strained muscle near his ribcage to get back on the field.
Since the 6-foot-6, 274-pound defensive end said shortly before kickoff last Saturday against Kentucky that he was in too much pain to play, there have been questions about whether the potential No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft was shutting it down for the season.
Spurrier doesn't believe Clowney is done but didn't rule out the possibility.
"Let me say this about Jadeveon, if he never plays another snap, we all should be thankful and appreciative that he came to South Carolina," Spurrier said. "We've won 26 games, two 11-2 years, the greatest seasons we've had in 120 years.
"So none of us need to be upset at Jadeveon. None of us."
Spurrier certainly sounded upset Saturday night, saying that if the defensive end didn't want to play for the Gamecocks, he didn't have to and the program would "move on."
The coach said since then, he has spoken with Clowney and is confident the junior is committed to finishing the season on the field.
"I'm all for Jadeveon and his future," Spurier said. " When he is ready to play we're going to put him out there. He has been coming to treatment, I think, twice a day and told me he is doing everything he can to try to get ready to play."
The eighth-year coach said he was more upset Saturday with how he learned of Clowney's status.
Spurrier said he was more frustrated that proper protocol wasn't followed and that word of Clowney's absence in the 35-28 win over Kentucky didn't come from trainers or team doctors. Instead, Spurrier learned about it when he saw Clowney without pads on prior to kickoff.
"Obviously, we all handled it poorly. All of us did," Spurrier said.
Clowney is expected to talk with the media later Tuesday.
It has not been the season expected out of the SEC's reigning defensive player of the year. He has just two sacks and 12 tackles. After setting a school mark of 23 ? tackles for loss last season, Clowney's got just three stops behind the line of scrimmage this year.
Clowney was one of the most talked about player in college football after finishing last season with his helmet-popping hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl.
Some analysts projected that Clowney would have been the top pick in last year's NFL draft as a sophomore, prompting talk he should sit out this year instead of risking on field injury. Clowney eventually purchased $5 million worth of NCAA-allowed insurance.
Clowney spent a summer in the spotlight. "The Hit" won the ESPY Award for best play while Clowney met with LeBron James and other celebrities.
Spurrier cut off access to Clowney once fall camp began, but the issues continued.
When the season began, Clowney looked winded and was bothered by the flu in the opener against North Carolina. He needed IV fluids the day before the Gamecocks played UCF because of illness. He's been bothered by a flare-up of bone spurs in his right foot and now has the muscle strain that kept him from a practice last Thursday and again on Monday.
Clowney's also been frustrated that South Carolina's defense is not playing as well as it had his first two seasons. He said after a 41-30 loss at Georgia that coaches should move him around more, then said the guys on defense had to improve after giving up most of an 18-point lead in a 28-25 win at UCF.
Quarterback Connor Shaw said Clowney's situation has not created a problem in the locker room.
"All I know is Clowney's helped us win a lot of games," he said. "It's more of a big deal to everyone else instead of us."