COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) All-American Jadeveon Clowney's time on South Carolina's sidelines is apparently over.
Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Thursday that the injured Clowney will start if healthy Saturday when No. 14 South Caorlina (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) takes on the Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2).
Clowney took himself out of last week's 35-28 victory over Kentucky a short time before kickoff, saying he was in too much pain from a strained muscle near his ribcage.
The last-minute absence upset South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier - "If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants," Spurrier said moments after the Kentucky win - and led to questions whether the 6-foot-6, 274-pound lineman wsa fully committed to the Gamecocks or if he was protecting himself for next spring's NFL draft where he's consider a top prospect.
Ward said Clowney successfully finished a second straight day of practice after missing workouts earlier in the week because of the injury.
"If he's healthy, he's going to start," Ward said. "He practiced two days in a row and I think he's getting better every day."
Clowney was not available for comment, but had a large smile on his face and waved to reporters as he walked into the locker room after practice.
Ward talked with trainer Clint Haggard who said Clowney's received treatment on his injury several times. Ward says Clowney's doing all he can to return.
"I think he'll play based on what we've seen the last two days," Ward said. "He's gotten better. He's still getting a lot of treatment and he'll continue to get a lot of treatment."
Ward said Clowney might have some extra motivation to play well after the events of the past week.
Clowney reaffirmed his commitment to the Gamecocks after Tuesday's practice, saying planned on playing plenty of more snaps in college before considering his future.
"Am I fully committed? Always," Clowney said. "I could've sat out. I'm not looking to sit out. I'm not that type of guy. I'm here for the team."
Spurrier and Clowney acknowledged there was miscommunication last week about the injury.
The coach softened his criticism of Clowney and defended the SEC's reigning defensive player of the year at his weekly media gathering.
"I just want to clear the air that Jadeveon, all those number seven jerseys and all the money he has made for our school , he has been a tremendous, important player," Spurrier said. "Every Gamecock, including me, the coaches and everybody else, we need to be appreciative that he chose South Carolina."