Jeff Blake, USA TODAY Sports

After last year, South Carolina Gamecock Jadeveon Clowney’s draft status couldn’t have been higher. If it hadn’t been for NFL’s rules, it’s arguable that Clowney would have declared for last year’s draft and been taken in the first round. Experts debated whether Clowney should join the Gamecocks for his Junior year and risk injury or sit out and take the year off before he gets an opportunity to cash in on his amazing talent.

Well, Clowney came back and is playing his junior year but it’s not injury that is hurting his draft potential this season. As I noted earlier this season, Clowney can be a disruptive force on the football field, but only when he plays. The North Carolina Tar Heels gave incredible respect to Clowney when they ran plays away from him all game. While that respect was deserved based on the potential which Clowney possesses, his on-the-field play told a slightly different story. His long periods off the field and taking play’s off seem to be a sign that Jadeveon Clowney is worried about all the wrong things.

As it currently stands, no football player is eligable to declare for the draft until they are 3 years removed from high school. Playing in college is not a requirement, but there seems to be no better way to publicize your talents than to play. In the past, a few outstanding sophomores have elected to sit their junior year in order to minimize their chance of injuring themselves and hurting their future in the draft. A year off of football can drop them in the draft because they lack the exposure in this what-have-you-done-lately society, but they can enter the draft in full health, which is better than with torn ligaments and broken bones.

Once again, Jadeveon Clowney choose to remain with the Gamecocks this year and play, or at least mostly play? Clowney sat out week 6, in a game against conference opponent Kentucky. It doesn’t matter that Clowney sat out, what matters is the way he went about  his business, which was to tell Coach Spurrier he was too injured to play after the team arrived at the stadium. Since then, Coach Spurrier has “cleared the air” and said Clowney’s injuries were diagnosed later, but the damage against Clowney’s reputation has been done, in so much that scouts and head coaches may have doubts about his commitment and ability to handle his situation.

Whether Jadeveon Clowney sat out the game due to the diagnosed muscle strain, or because he was protecting himself during a game that he figured his team could win without him is yet to be seen. With Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mizzou coming up in the next 3 weeks, we’ll see if Clowney is up to the challenge of playing SEC conference opponents or if mysterious injuries continue to keep him off the field.