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August 23, 2011
Jadeveon Clowney may be Superman, but he's not the Man of Steel.
Instead, he's made of flesh and bone, as South Carolina discovered on Tuesday.
Clowney suffered a mildly sprained left ankle trying to maneuver around left tackle Kyle Nunn during a drill, and left the field under his own power.
He was seen walking with a slight limp away from The Proving Grounds accompanied by an athletic trainer late in Tuesday's practice.
But Clowney wasn't the lone defensive lineman to depart practice early because of an injury. Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram suffered a left thigh bruise trying to block a punt and also left the field under his own power.
Although neither injury is considered serious, USC coach Steve Spurrier (who described Clowney's injury as a sprained foot) said both players will probably miss Wednesday's workout when the Gamecocks are scheduled to conduct another mini-scrimmage.
"The doc doesn't think it's too bad," Spurrier said when asked about Clowney's injury. "He went in and put a little ice on it. Melvin bruised his thigh a little bit today, so two of our D-linemen had a minor nagging little thing. Hopefully, if it had to happen, it happened 10 or 11 days before the game. They should be OK. They will be out a day or two. Definitely both of them will be out a couple of days. Hopefully they'll get well by next week."
Spurrier said that Clowney said he had suffered a similar ankle/foot injury before and should be able to return to practice in a couple of days.
Nunn, USC's scheduled starter at left tackle, said that Clowney attempted a swim move in an effort to get around him but somehow ended up on the ground clutching his foot.
"I don't know what happened," Nunn said. "I think he tweaked his ankle a little bit. But I think he's going to be all right. Both he and Melvin Ingram have had really good camps against me. It's been fun battling back and forth because we're going to make each other better. A lot of people have said they're the best defensive line. I hope that's true. I'd like to see what they can do this season."
Spurrier said he watched the snap and in a flash, Clowney was down.
"He was rushing the passer and the next time I looked, he was on the ground on the other side near the offense laying down and holding his foot," Spurrier said. "Melvin was sort of blocking a punt and ran into one of his own guys. He caught a knee in the thigh. He'll be fine in a couple of days."
If Clowney and Ingram are unable to practice on Wednesday, Chaz Sutton or Byron McKnight will likely practice with the first-team defense at the right defensive end position.
Clowney's presence will be missed, though, Marcus Lattimore said.
"He's had an outstanding camp," Lattimore said. "I knew coming in he was going to be a great player. He was a great athlete already. Now he's learning the defense. He's getting better."
The news on the injury front is better for quarterback Connor Shaw, who returned to practice on Monday, five days after dislocating a thumb in a scrimmage. He again practiced Tuesday as he continued his quest to unseat incumbent starter Stephen Garcia.
"It's getting better day-by-day. It's just a little sore," Shaw said. "It didn't hurt me at all (Monday). Of course, when you throw that many balls, it's going to be sore the next morning. I'll be fine. I've dealt with it before in high school when I played receiver. Basically, the same thing happened and I was fine after that."
Both quarterbacks are expected to participate in Wednesday's scrimmage.
"We'll see how the competition (is going) between Stephen and Connor," Spurrier said. "This will probably be the last scrimmage, so we have to make some decisions there and make some decisions at other positions. It will be an important scrimmage for a lot of guys."
Spurrier said USC could name a starting quarterback early next week. He declined to discuss the chances of either quarterback winning the job.
"I'm not going to get into all the percentages right now," Spurrier said. "We'll have something to say next week some time."
Possibly the positions most affected by Wednesday's scrimmage could be along the offensive line. The second team O-line struggled in Saturday's scrimmage, so spots on the depth chart could be up for grabs. The starting five, however, is set and barring injury, will likely remain that way throughout the 2011 season.
"The first five guys have been here before," Spurrier said. "A.J. (Cann) is the only newcomer. The second bunch is way behind. Hopefully, they won't have to play too much this year. We'll see."
Nunn said some of the goals set by the offensive line for 2011 include: 1), Lattimore averaging 200 yards rushing per game; 2), Fewest number of sacks in the SEC; and 3), Eliminate the errors.
Besides Spurrier identifying a starting quarterback, another coach with some difficult decisions to make is running backs coach Jay Graham. The backup job behind Lattimore is still up for grabs with multiple backs still in contention for the coveted job, he said.
Even freshmen Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds have not been ruled out of the equation, Graham said.
"We're still going to look at them. They're doing a good job and competing very well," Graham said. "They're breaking tackles and making some big plays. They're making it hard. They're making it very competitive. It's been good."
Graham said Carson and redshirt junior Kenny Miles were in "good position" to claim the No. 2 job, but he added he might wait until after the East Carolina game or later before settling on a permanent backup to Lattimore.
"As far as who is going to be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy, it needs to probably be decided in a game," Graham said. "As we go through the early part of the season, we'll find out on that. They've all done very well."
-- Nunn said he is comfortable playing either offensive tackle spot. He enters the 2011 season with 16 career starts.
-- Graham said Dalton Wilson and Matt Coffee have been battling hard for the starting fullback job, with Justice Cunningham involved in the mix as well in certain formations. Wilson missed the entire spring after undergoing left shoulder surgery, but has bounced back in preseason camp. "It's good to see Dalton back out there," Graham said. "He has done a great job in fall camp." Coffee wore a club cast for a couple of days, Graham said, following a surgical procedure "to get something taken off his hand." Coffee was able to practice on Tuesday without the club and "is catching the ball a lot better now."
-- Spurrier said he heard the reports about Tennessee woman's basketball coach Pat Summitt being diagnosed with dementia. "I hear she is continuing on. Like she said, there's a way to handle the illness," Spurrier said. "I'm sure she will do everything possible so it won't affect her very much at all, if at all. I think she will be an excellent coach for several more years."
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