The Daily Gamecock

Clowney participant in annual trick play

Spurrier says halftime show was ‘highlight of the spring game’

With the spring football season coming to a close after Saturday’s Garnet and Black Spring Game, coach Steve Spurrier said that while spring practices are important for younger players, he does not overvalue the practice time in the spring.

“We don’t beat each other up, and we try to keep some good camaraderie,” Spurrier said. “We’re a lot more serious in the regular season and preseason practices.”

Spurrier said his easygoing philosophy on spring practice is partly due to his limited participation in spring ball during his playing days at Florida because of various injuries. Spurrier was sidelined for all but one of his springs as a Gator, including the one that preluded his Heisman-winning campaign.

Fitting in with Spurrier’s relaxed spring-football mantra, every year during the Garnet and Black Game the coach sends a Gamecock off the sideline mid-play to make a catch. This year, junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, inactive for the game with a minor neck injury, was pegged as the traditional “receiver off the sidelines.”

The unanimous All-American from last season darted onto the field in the 4th quarter and secured the 54-yard toss from freshman quarterback Connor Mitch, but promptly face-planted before getting back on his feet and running for a “touchdown”.

“I caught the ball, turned around, forgot I didn’t have my cleats on,” Clowney said. “But it was pretty fun. Coach told me ahead of time that he wanted me to do it.”

After recovering and making it to the endzone, Clowney launched the ball into the stands as a souvenir for a lucky fan, a celebration that he said he planned to do whether or not he made the catch.

“JD’s biggest fear was that he was going to drop that ball,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “I kept planting that seed in his head that he was going to drop that ball. When he caught it, he said that was the only thing he was worrying about, and then he slipped.”

Halftime awards ceremony: Spurrier and the rest of the USC coaching staff handed out their traditional spring practice awards during halftime of Saturday’s contest. The distinctions included anything from most improved in the various position groups to the Ernest Brooks MVP award for last year’s Clemson game, which was given to junior quarterback Dylan Thompson.

During the ceremony Clowney received two national awards for the 2012 season, as he was presented with the Ted Hendrick’s Award for the nation’s top defensive end and the College Football Performance Trophy for the best defensive lineman in the country.

“As far as the halftime show, that’s probably the highlight of our spring game,” Spurrier said. “When you’ve got something to sort of brag about or be proud of, I believe you do have to celebrate your successes.”

Another Garnet and Black game tradition that was honored Saturday was the recognition of the previous year’s seniors. Among the former Gamecocks, NFL prospects D.J. Swearinger, Devin Taylor and Marcus Lattimore were on hand to take part in the halftime festivities.

During the introductions, Spurrier voiced his appreciation for Lattimore’s lasting contributions to South Carolina football, going as far as to call him “the best football player to ever wear a Gamecock jersey.”

“When I said he was the best player to ever play here I really mean that,” Spurrier said. “His influence and what he did on the field were right there with the best. He’s a talent and such a wonderful young man and such a leader, such an influence on the other guys. That’s why we’ve won 31 games.”