South Carolina-Arkansas Preview
Projected to go No. 1 overall in next year's NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney created a frenzy after sitting out last weekend.
While some suggested he may have been putting his future before the team, Clowney insists he's committed to helping South Carolina win.
The reigning SEC defensive player of the year will start if he's healthy in Saturday's clash against slumping Arkansas, which goes for a fourth consecutive home win over the No. 14 Gamecocks.
After recording 12 tackles and two sacks during the first four games, Clowney said he was too sore to play in last Saturday's 35-28 win over Kentucky due to bruised ribs. While further adding to the media circus which has followed him all season, Clowney's absence resulted in harsh words from coach Steve Spurrier.
"(If Clowney) wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team," Spurrier said afterward. "But he if doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play. Simple as that."
Spurrier backed off a bit Tuesday, saying he was frustrated that proper injury protocol was not followed.
"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."
Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Thursday that Clowney successfully finished a second straight day of practice after missing some workouts.
"I think he'll play based on what we've seen the last two days," Ward said. "He's gotten better. He's still getting a lot of treatment and he'll continue to get a lot of treatment."
Winners of three straight, the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1) could surely use Clowney as they try to end their recent struggles in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2) have taken six of seven from South Carolina at home, including the last three matchups by an average of 15.0 points.
The Gamecocks most recently fell 44-28 at then-No. 8 Arkansas on Nov. 5, 2011.
"It was pretty difficult playing there," said quarterback Connor Shaw, who threw for 128 yards and an interception in that game. "It's a great atmosphere, their fans will be ready, so it will be a fun game for us."
While his efforts were overshadowed by Clowney's absence, Shaw was nearly flawless last Saturday, completing 17 of 20 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. Shaw, who added another 50 yards and a score rushing, is fourth in the SEC with a passer rating of 173.9.
He could be in for another big game against the Razorbacks, who have dropped three straight while allowing 34.4 points per contest. Arkansas is on the verge of opening 0-3 in conference play for the first time since 2007 after suffering a 30-10 loss at then-No. 18 Florida last Saturday.
"I'm going to say it a thousand times," coach Bret Bielema said. "Winning is a process, and the process needs to be learned. And they understand it. They're getting it a little bit more each and every day."
Brandon Allen completed just 17 of 41 passes for 164 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown for the second straight week.
"There were a lot of things I could have done better," he said. "I didn't think I did what it took for us to win."
While things haven't gone their way of late, the Razorbacks know they have a chance to prove themselves Saturday.
"I think they'll bounce back well," Bielema said. "We turn the page on Sundays. ... I kind of brought them back in for a meeting and closed the book there and moved ourselves into South Carolina mode. We'll come back.
"It's homecoming week. That's something I really preach to our kids that you're going to have a great crowd."
Arkansas has been outscored by an average of 21.8 points during a five-game losing streak to Top 25 opponents, with three of those defeats coming at home.
South Carolina has won six straight SEC road games against unranked foes.