The consensus elite prospect in the country, Jadeveon Clowney was good -- but not dominant -- in the first game of what is widely expected to be his final season at South Carolina.
Primarily lining up opposite Preseason All-American left tackle James Hurst, Clowney was "only" credited with three tackles before a weather delay suspending game action in the mid fourth quarter. He saw action when the game resumed over an hour later, lining up opposite UNC's backup right tackle Kiaro Holts but did not record a tackle.
When blocked one on one by Hurst, Clowney frequently impacted plays, penetrating into the backfield to force quick throws by senior Bryn Renner and forcing backs into the arms of teammates. UNC did everything it could schematically against Clowney, double-teaming him, running misdirection away from him and screens over the top of him.
Clowney did not register a stop following the delay but did beat Holts early with a quick inside move, forcing an errant thrown from Renner. A play later, Holts retaliated with a questionable late, low block into the back of Clowney's knee that drew a flag for clipping. Clowney had a slight limp as he walked off the field but returned on the Gamecocks' next defensive series.
Considering the hype Clowney has received, those focusing on him for the first time Thursday night might have left disappointed. The attention from UNC (and a game-time temperature of 96 degrees) clearly had Clowney winded. The star defensive end also told reporters after the game that he'd been suffering from a stomach virus.
"The night before I had a stomach virus... All night long until this morning," Clowney said.
He was subbed for most of UNC's lone scoring drive of the first half and did not make the type of impactful plays he has throughout his first two dominating seasons in the SEC.
This was a home game for Clowney and the Gamecocks so scouts may have a hard time excusing the star defensive end's exhaustion. As such, for the handful of NFL talent evaluators watching No. 7 for the first time Thursday night, Clowney's first impression could be that, while talented, he needs to work on his conditioning to warrant his hype.
Clowney's 2013 debut may lack the sizzle to spark a Heisman campaign but taken in context with the rest of his sparkling career, his status as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated prospect potentially available for the 2014 NFL draft is secure.