No need for Gamecocks, Clowney to worry

Jadeveon Clowney had a tough time against North Carolina on Thursday night. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

How many times did you see Jadeveon Clowney’s hit this summer? Honest question. How many times were you in a sports bar, an airport or your living room when “The Hit” -- with Michigan RB Vincent Smith’s helmet landing somewhere near Naples -- appeared on a screen near you?

South Carolina’s junior defensive end is still the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, pretty much no matter what. He is still a legitimate Heisman contender, still among the favorites.

No, he didn’t look quite right on many plays Thursday night in South Carolina’s 27-10 win against North Carolina, but the fact that he’s taking heat for his perceived lack of conditioning (potential factors could have included a pregame stomach bug he’d been dealing with, or the fact that he says he often has stamina issues in opening games) says more about the expectation level surrounding him -- in part because of that highlight clip against Michigan -- than it does about his ability to have a dominant 2013 season.

"You kidding me?" one opposing coach said via text, when I asked him during the lightning delay what he thought about Clowney's play. "I don’t think they’re going to cut him."

Probably not. And more important for the Gamecocks, the strength they showed at positions around Clowney indicates that they are a very real SEC title contender and a dark horse for the national title.