South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier isn’t exactly helping Jadeveon Clowney’s draft stock.
While Spurrier has praised his former defensive end’s motor on the field, he hasn’t given him a ringing endorsement off it.
On the NFL Network on Wednesday, Spurrier was asked to evaluate Clowney’s off-field work ethic and Spurrier tried to be a judicious as possible.
“He was OK,” Spurrier said. "It wasn't like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they're not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he's got something no one else has."
Prior to last year’s draft, Spurrier praised Lattimore and his work ethic as he recovered from a horrific knee injury he suffered early in the season. Spurrier's praise was part of the reason the San Francisco 49ers took a chance on Lattimore.
Questions about Clowney’s work ethic have been floating around most of this season and Spurrier has done little to quell the queries. Following a game against Kentucky, Spurrier said he had no idea Clowney wasn’t going to play because of injury.
"If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants," Spurrier said after the game.
While Spurrier later tried to backtrack on the comments, it raised questions about Clowney’s durability and his willingness to play through injury – a red flag for a lot of NFL scouts.
Clowney suffered from various ailments last season, including sickness, bone spurs and bruised ribs. In all, Clowney, the 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, finished the year with 41 tackles and just three sacks.
Still, Clowney’s upside on the field might far outweigh his shortcomings off it. NFL analyst Mike Mayock said he thought Clowney was a better pick than defensive end Mario Williams, a former No. 1 draft pick.
"I know that he's got the physical makeup to be the best player the draft," Mayock said. "If you want to compare him to Mario Williams, I think he's a better football player with more upside than when Mario came out of college. ... From a physical skill-set (standpoint), this kid is as freaky as they come. He plays a position of critical importance in today's NFL, which is an ability to get the quarterback, and he can play multiple places on the defense. All those things check off."
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