Clowney’s highly touted season off to slow start

Before the season, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

His 23½ tackles last season, capped by his mind-numbing blow in the Outback Bowl in which he hit Michigan running back Vincent Smith so hard that Smith’s helmet flew one way and the ball the other, got him overwhelming national notice.

But in a season-opening 27-10 win over North Carolina last week, Clowney had just three tackles and three QB hurries. He looked tired by halftime and didn’t seem to have much burst. TV announcers calling the game were critical, and Clowney later didn’t deny he was fatigued.

“I was pretty tired, but I was still coming off the ball and that’s what matters,” he said. “I might be bent over sometimes, but when that ball snaps, I was getting off. They (North Carolina players) were telling me at the end of the game they were tired, too.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes Clowney is ready for Saturday’s SEC opener at Georgia in a battle of the two Eastern Division favorites.

“I think the one thing he learned is that the camera is on him all the time now,” Spurrier said. “Last year, the camera was on him on the replays after he made sacks and big plays. There’s no question the heat affected him and we hopefully can get him better prepared to go the distance against Georgia.”

Bulldogs’ coach Mark Richt wasn’t about to criticize Clowney’s first-game effort when asked during Wednesday SEC coaches teleconference.

“Sure, he got tired and he’s human,” Richt said. “But you’ve got to play really hard to get that tired. When you watch film and see how hard he started out in that game, I think anybody would be tired. There’s nothing wrong with his conditioning and effort. You still see a guy disrupting the passing game and the run. He affects the game more than anybody I’ve seen in a long time.”

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