Steve Spurrier is closing South Carolina’s football practices, a relatively easy feat for the team’s head coach, and, in a larger sense, trying to close the book on the Summer of Clowney, which could prove more difficult.
When the Gamecocks opened fall camp on Friday, the school announced the first week, and maybe more, of practices would be open to the public and the media. Sunday, at his annual season-opening news conference, Spurrier said that policy would end after Sunday night’s workout.
“The autographers have been a big reason we have to cancel it, cell phones with video, pictures, all that kind of stuff,” Spurrier said. “Can’t do it anymore. Love to do it for those people that like to watch practice. I have always been one to open up spring ball and most of preseason, but it’s a different day.”
Hundreds of fans lined the team’s Bluff Road practice fields on Friday and Saturday night, and many of them greeted the players as they entered the fields. Several of those have been seen asking for signatures, mostly from Clowney, South Carolina’s All-America defensive end. Spurrier had to admonish Clowney on Saturday evening for stopping to sign an autograph.
“Poor Jadeveon can’t even hardly get out on the field without getting somebody mad at him, so we just have to eliminate open practices, and we have to get some security guys out there, make sure our guys can get in and out of practice without having to sign autographs all the way up and down the field,” Spurrier said.
That edict passed, Spurrier then moved on to a more complicated issue – turning the conversation from Clowney to his team, which opens the season Aug. 29 against North Carolina.
A reporter on Sunday “had 15 questions about Jadeveon, and I answered a couple of them, and I said, ‘You know, we have talked about Jadeveon for seven months after that hit. He and Johnny Football (Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel), they are the only two guys in America anybody has talked about it seems like -- Jadeveon’s hit and Johnny’s adventures all over the country. I think Jadeveon is tired of everybody talking about him. He’s ready for team, and hopefully what our team can achieve this year. We all know he’s a super player, but it’s a team sport.”
Complicating Spurrier’s goal Sunday was the fact that reporters from USA Today, the Washington Post and SportsonEarth.com were all in attendance to talk, at least in part, about Clowney. When the Post reporter tried to sneak in one more Clowney question, Spurrier cut him off, saying “You are asking too many.”
“I have been answering that all summer,” Spurrier said. “He’s tired of it, and I think I am tired of it. We are just trying to get more into team stuff.”
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, who gets to unleash Clowney off the edge every snap, is happy to listen to more Clowney talk, he said.
“I’m not tired of it because that’s part of it. I know the boss is tired of it, but that’s the boss,” Ward said. “The young man is deserving of all the praise he’s getting. But again, it’s not going to help him this season. He’s got to go play.”
Clowney is ready to do that, he said, although at one point he added, “No attention bothers me.”
“Every little thing I do is something big. I just get a laugh out of it,” he said. “(Spurrier) keeps telling me, ‘JD why do they keep asking questions about you?’ I say, ‘I don’t know coach.’ ”
To strengthen his argument, Spurrier pointed out that the “Fearsome Foursome,” the nickname given to the Los Angeles Rams’ dominating defensive line of the 1960s, never won a Super Bowl.
“And they had the best defensive line ever put together,” Spurrier said. “Football is the ultimate team sport. It takes a lot of guys. Jadeveon is going to do his part, but the rest of us, we have to do our part, too. I think it’s time now we all start talking a little bit more team, team, team.”
Video: Steve Spurrier
Video: Jadeveon Clowney
Video: Connor Shaw