COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBSMiami/AP) – Thursday night is the date college football fans have waited the last seven months to arrive; it’s the first day of the 2013 college football season.
What better way to start out than with arguably the most talented player in college football, Jadeveon Clowney, leading his South Carolina teammates against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Clowney’s presence will be noted by not just opposing quarterbacks and coaches, but also fans and NFL scouts.
“I told my wife this morning, I was looking at the paper, all the NFL guys are playing this Thursday night,” head coach Steve Spurrier said. “Those dadgum guys are crowding in on our Thursday night TV games.”
In case you forgot who Clowney was, here’s what happened in South Carolina’s last bowl game when he went into beast mode.
The 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior — and presumptive No. 1 pick in the next draft — steps on the field for the first time since the Outback Bowl when he sent the helmet of Michigan runner Vincent Smith flying and turned momentum to the Gamecocks in a 33-28 victory.
The hype hasn’t slowed down since. Clowney’s hit won an ESPY for “Best Play.” He’s met LeBron James, been linked to rap mogul Jay-Z and is considered a legit candidate to become the first defense-only player to walk away with the Heisman Trophy.
First, the Tar Heels.
Clowney, Spurrier believes, is eager to show his skills on the field again instead of hearing about what might happen. “Jadeveon, obviously, he and Johnny Football are the two guys the whole country’s been talking about. And I think Jadeveon’s handled it very well,” Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks are 13-1 at home since Clowney arrived in 2011. North Carolina left tackle James Hurst, an all-Atlantic Coast Conference player with NFL aspirations of his own, is the first who’ll try and slow down the Gamecocks defensive end.
Hurst has watched Clowney on film since January and has patiently fielded question after question about what’s in front of him.
“I don’t really know if it matters if I’m tired of talking about him because I know it’s going to be a big deal,” Hurst said. “It just keeps reminding me of how big of a deal it is, so it’s probably a good thing.”