COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said Tuesday he's as healthy as he's been all season and is ready to end his career strongly at the Capital One Bowl.
The eighth-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) face No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3) on New Year's Day. And a Clowney not slowed by bumps and bruises is a big plus for South Carolina.
The 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior has dealt with bone spurs in his foot and a strained muscle near his ribs this season, along with double and triple teams from opposing teams he's faced each game.
"Right now, my mind's on the team, trying to finish the season off strong and win this game against Wisconsin," Clowney said. "After that, I'll look forward to doing everything else."
For Clowney, that's prepping for May's NFL draft. He said a year ago this season would be his last in college and he took a final bow to South Carolina fans at the last home game as he was honored with departing seniors.
Clowney was the face of college football's offseason, largely because of his oft-replayed, helmet-popping hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in last year's Outback Bowl.
But Clowney acknowledged it was not the disrsuptive season he had hoped — he had just three sacks, 10 fewer than his record-setting sophomore year — but the 20-year-old still believes he's ready for the next level.
Last month, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Clowney remained his top NFL prospect despite the drop in production.
"My attitude would be unless you need a quarterback or a great left tackle, you take Jadeveon Clowney" with the No. 1 selection, Kiper said on a November conference call.
Still, it has not been the easiest road this season for Clowney.
He was bothered by a reoccurance of bone spurs in his right foot, a problem he's had since high school. He pulled out of the game with Kentucky a short time before kickoff, citing strained muscles around his ribs. The move surprised and frustrated coach Steve Spurrier and touched off a weeklong debate about Clowney's commitment to the sport.