Could it get any better for Clemson fans after the first weekend in October?
The orange and white and occasionally purple (viewed as an abomination to Furman graduates) are basking in their glory like Don Draper in Hawaii. Their team is undefeated and they have every reason to believe that's going to continue, at least until Oct. 19. Down the road in Columbia, on the campus of their sworn enemy, South Carolina is sneaking past the likes of Kentucky, and the Head Ball Coach is slurring his speech afterwards. At least, until he talks about Jadeveon Clowney.
The Tigers are as gleeful as Gamecock fans are puzzled about The Clowney Problem. His fall from grace is so wonderful because they predicted it. And there is nothing quite as enjoyable for a football fan than being right, particularly about your rival. They made these predictions of "overrated" Clowney largely due to the tint of their orange-colored glasses. But the rest of us should have seen this coming on January 2, 2013.
As soon as Clowney made "The Hit", sports pundits started talking about how he should sit out for a year to wait for the NFL draft. From that point on, The Clowney Problem became inevitable.
Add in the Heisman Trophy predictions. Then add in that Clowney is a likeable 20-year old who seems to lack some maturity. He was happy to talk about how opposing quarterbacks like Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd are scared of him. THEN add in a summer of listening to how great he is and how he will be the top pick in the 2014 draft, and it adds up to a serious Clowney Problem.
The Clowney Problem went public when he came into the season out of shape. He's being double and triple-teamed on every play because South Carolina's defense isn't nearly as good as a year ago. He has some nagging injuries in his feet and now with his ribs, and seems to perpetually carry a stomach virus.
All opponents have to do is run away from him--which just demonstrates his lack of conditioning--and they can have success.
Now, Clowney is taking himself out of games if he has pain or can't keep his wind or is just getting frustrated with the blocking schemes. The doctors aren't telling the coaches to sit him. He is removing himself from the lineup! If there is anything that Steve Spurrier hates, it's a star player that doesn't seem to think he's accountable to the HBC.
But can we truly blame Jadeveon Clowney? Okay, perhaps we can, for being out of shape and running his mouth and reading about himself in the papers far too often before the season started. It's tougher to blame him for thinking about injuries, especially since he has a nice pile of money waiting at the end of the rainbow. This still does not excuse him for not being prepared or giving everything he has to his team, IF he chooses to play.
At the same time, The Clowney Problem could end up being the best thing for--Jadeveon Clowney. It may be the best thing for him both off the field and on it.
Clowney is an incredible talented with almost unlimited physical potential, but he has to develop the maturity and mental toughness to handle the pressure of being a high draft pick. The HBC is absolutely correct to divert the media attention to Clowney, because he'll have to field those kinds of questions on Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, the only way to learn is to be thrown directly under the bus, and no one does that quite like Spurrier.
Clowney also has to learn to manage himself with things are not going his way.
In his football life, he has been a man among boys during his public career. Even prior to this season, people accused Clowney of taking plays off because he could flip a switch and dominate whenever he felt like it. At this point, he's learning what it's like to not be the biggest bully on the block, and that lesson will serve him well at some training camp next fall. NFL stands for "Not For Long" if you go in with an attitude.
As bad as The Clowney Problem is, it could end up benefitting Clowney as a player and a person. It's just sad that South Carolina may have to endure some disappointment this season in order for The Clowney Problem to be resolved.
Sad, that is, unless you own a pair of those orange-colored glasses.