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Heisman Hopes DOA? Jadeveon Clowney Terrible In Opener

A troubling start to the season for South Carolina's Heisman candidate.

A troubling start to the season for South Carolina’s Heisman candidate.

University of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had such a dominant performance in 2012, that many in the sports media wondered whether or not he would even return to play for the Gamecocks in 2013. Not too bad for a guy who recently claimed he was out of shape at the time.

He was a beast all year, but rocketed to superstardom with the hit heard ’round the world on University of Michigan running back Vincent Smith during the Outback Bowl in January. Clowney’s monstrous tackle forced a fumble, which negated an inexplicably bad call by the refs on the previous play.

In short, he single-handedly won the game for South Carolina on that one play.

Obviously ready for the NFL, but a year shy becoming eligible to declare for the draft, the argument was made that the All-American Player of the Year could only hurt his prospects and risk his health by playing this season. But Clowney put all that speculation to rest, announcing he would return this season, before the story could develop legs.

But considering how adamant and no-nonsense he was about his return, Clowney certainly hasn’t looked like someone who wants to be playing college football. Two weeks ago he was among a handful of starters called out by coach Steve Spurrier for exaggerating injuries—or faking them altogether—to get out of practice.

When it comes to his own players, Spurrier isn’t known for messing around. He expressed his thoughts publicly and threatened to bench them for the season opener against North Carolina if they didn’t get their collective act together.

Tonight there were no high profile starters benched in the game against the Tar Heels and Clowney started, as expected. Not that it really mattered.

With South Carolina up 27-10 in the fourth quarter, the game is currently delayed due to dangerous lightning in the area. It doesn’t even matter whether or not they call it with time left on the clock—eight minutes simply isn’t enough time for Clowney to make up for his play in the first three quarters.

The Gamecocks defensive front looked sluggish and completely gassed before halftime. When Clowney was on the field, he wasn’t even receiving any extra attention and was still completely ineffective.

That’s when he was on the field, which wasn’t all that often. Clearly under-conditioned to play a football game in that infamous late-summer South Carolina heat, Clowney spent more time gasping for breath on the sideline than grasping to tackle the Tar Heel offense.

One game does not a season make, but when you’re trying to become the first truly defensive player in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy, it does a season break.

Moving forward, Clowney could go on to have the best season of his career to date and become the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And if you’ve seen enough of his play, you know that is far more likely than not to be the case.

But as for his Heisman chances in 2013? They’re pretty much DOA.

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