In part two of our behind enemy lines with Chris Clark of Gamecockcentral.com we talk Jadeveon Clowney, the ‘Ole Ball Coach, Williams-Brice Stadium and if Florida can pull off the upset this week in Columbia.
There was a lot made in the beginning of the season about Jadeveon Clowney taking plays off or not giving it his all. What is the feeing from the fan base now?
Chris Clark: Anytime you talk about a fan base there are going to be differing opinions. I think most people were frustrated earlier in the season with all the negative media attention towards Clowney. We even talked about it as a staff before the season. North Carolina’s offense is going to run away from Clowney, they’re going to throw passes away from Clowney, they’re going to get the ball out quickly but yet, if he doesn’t have 15 sacks, 20 forced fumbles and score a touchdown on defense then he’s going to be blasted in the media for not doing those things and that’s exactly what happened.
Has he left some plays on the field, has he missed some opportunities? Sure, he’s admitted that, the defensive staff has admitted that as well. But he’s still played well, he’s played hard and a motivated Clowney is when he plays at his best. He came out the weekend after he was blasted in the media, came out against Arkansas and had a very good game and he played the next game against Tennessee. So, he’s had a very good year. If you watch the tape he’s playing hard, he’s still giving effort and he’s still really hurt opposing offenses because they have to gameplan against him and those things are pretty obvious. Statistically he hasn’t had a huge impact and statistically he could be better if he finishes those plays but stats alone don’t always tell the whole story. He’s still been a big part of the defense this year.
Clowney gets all the publicity but what about Kelcy Quarles and the rest of the defensive line?
Clark: The rest of the defensive line benefits and the defense as a whole benefits from Clowney drawing double teams and sometimes triple teams. Quarles started off slowly this season. He was suspended for a half against North Carolina and didn’t play well at all against Georgia, not many people on the defense did that day. He’s really rebounded; he’s played really well. J.T. Surratt, the other defensive tackle has played well. Chaz Sutton was expected to have a bigger year, his senior year, hasn’t been as good statistically as people thought but he has flashed at times this season.
Is South Carolina dealing with any of the attendance issues that have been seen in Gainesville and all around the country this season?
Clark: I will say in terms of the home games, every game has been sold out to date. The Clemson game is already sold out. The only one that everyone is waiting on is the Coastal Carolina game next week, that’s the one everyone is waiting to see [if it will sell out].
It’s been pretty good attendance this year, even for the Mississippi State game was a sell out. Was everybody that bought a ticket in attendance? I don’t know about that.
The one thing that does stand out, if you look at Alabama’s situation, South Carolina is in the same deal, where I don’t remember what game it was, South Carolina got up early and a lot of students left to go party or whatever and a couple of the players said some things and Spurrier said something.
It’s been pretty good. South Carolina’s been really good at home, they have one of the longest home winning streaks in the country and I think that’s helped.
Speaking of Williams-Brice Stadium, how is the atmosphere different at night?
Clark: I think it’s different at night anywhere you go. Look at LSU, that’s a tough place to play at any time but at night it’s a different animal than at any time during the day.
I think it’s just the excitement throughout the day, people tailgating and the build up all day. A lot of times your night games are bigger games and this is certainly a big game for South Carolina, so the fan base is a little more amped up for something like this. The bigger the game the bigger the atmosphere and South Carolina will have some big recruits in for this game visiting, a sell out game, it’s louder and the fans just get more into it.
I was just reading something this morning that people now consider Williams-Brice one of the toughest places to play in the SEC and certainly they have that winning streak and some big games in that building. Alabama back in 2010 comes to mind.
Does beating Florida with Spurrier as their head coach mean anything extra to the fans?
Clark: I haven’t really heard a lot of that out of the fan base. The biggest thing that people talk about is just how beating Florida is kind of special to Coach Spurrier. He’s still got a lot of Florida buddies obviously and when he took the South Carolina job a lot of them told him he couldn’t win there and things like that. To go out and do some of the things that he’s done that we’ve already covered, that hold some significance for him and being able to beat his alma mater is apart of that.
As far as the fans go, they very much disliked Spurrier when he was at Florida so it creates an interesting dynamic. Obviously they love him now but they didn’t really like him when he was at Florida beating up on everybody.
Can Florida cover the spread (-13 ½) this week?
Clark: Yeah, I think Florida can. I still think this is a game, I think South Carolina is gonna win, sure, but it’s a game that they have to be careful with. It sort of reminds me in a way of the game two years ago (USC won 17-12) and USC had to have some big plays here or there to win it.
I think Florida’s defense is still good, I know they’re banged up but if South Carolina comes in and turns the ball over a bunch or has some bad mental breakdowns on defense and lets Florida’s offense make some plays that they really shouldn’t it could become challenging. Vanderbilt kept it close against South Carolina at home, Kentucky kept it close against South Carolina at home, you know those were very close games and USC didn’t play well late in those games.
I think if South Carolina plays well and doesn’t turn the ball over, maybe Florida doesn’t cover the spread but if they don’t play well this game could be closer than people think.