Spurrier defends Clowney hit as legal

Coach tells ESPN that The Hit has blessing of SEC officials under old and new guidelines

dmclemore@thestate.comJuly 23, 2013 

Steve Spurrier on Tuesday disputed the notion that Jadeveon Clowney’s famous Outback Bowl hit would be a violation under an NCAA rule change on targeting.

Spurrier, during a SportsCenter interview with ESPN’s Chris Fowler, defended Clowney’s hit that sent Michigan running back Vincent Smith’s helmet flying as within the rules — old and new.

“The head of officials in the SEC, Steve Shaw, said it was perfectly legal because he hit him in the chest and it ricocheted up,” Spurrier said. “He landed initially in the chest and it ricocheted and popped his helmet off.”

Earlier this week, ACC officials coordinator Doug Rhoads said that, under the new rule, the Gamecocks would have been penalized 15 yards for Clowney’s hit. Fox Sports officiating analyst Mike Pereira agreed with Rhoads that the hit would be illegal.

Spurrier said he was OK with the change, as long as referees are consistent in their enforcement of the targeting penalty, which now carries an ejection.

“I think what they’re talking about is when a guy spears his helmet into another guy’s helmet,” Spurrier said. “You shouldn’t do that.”

NCAA rule 9-1-3 states that “no player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.” Also, rule 9-1-4 says, “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.”

Spurrier was in Bristol, Conn., along with other SEC coaches for a series of interviews on ESPN’s TV and radio shows.

Clowney and “The Hit” won the ESPY Award last week for best play of the sporting year.

“I thought the biggest part of the play was when he scooped up the fumble with one hand,” Spurrier said. “That’s not how we teach them to get fumbles, but he’s got his own way of getting it, I guess.”

Dig at Dabo

Spurrier got in a verbal jab on Clemson coach Dabo Swinney during a segment with ESPN commentator Skip Bayless on “First Take.”

Bayless asked Spurrier if he was comfortable with some experts mentioning the Gamecocks in national championship talks.

“We’re not talking about it, Skip, but if they want to throw it out there, that’s OK,” Spurrier said. “It’s good to think big. Our Clemson coach (Dabo Swinney), he throws it out there for Clemson right now. We’re not talking about it.

“We do have a good team. I think we’ll be preseason top 10. Almost every team in the top 10, if the ball bounces their way, get a few breaks, almost every team has a chance maybe to win it all.”

More on Boyd

Spurrier expressed some remorse over Clowney’s SEC Media Days comments that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd plays scared when the Gamecocks face the Tigers.

“I wish he hadn’t said that, but Tajh Boyd did not play very well against us,” Spurrier said. “He played a lot better the entire season than our game, for whatever reason. Obviously, the pass rush is why quarterbacks struggle. You’ve got to have a pass rush to stop a great quarterback like Tajh Boyd.”

Clowney sacked Boyd a South Carolina-record 4.5 times last season as the Gamecocks beat the Tigers 27-17 in Death Valley.

Boyd is a combined 32-of-71 for 339 yards, three interceptions and two touchdowns in three losses to the Gamecocks.

QBs ready to go

Spurrier declared senior Connor Shaw 100 percent healthy and 100 percent the starting quarterback.

“He’s going to get an opportunity to take us as far as we can go,” Spurrier said. “He’s our starter. He’s a tough, gutty player that can really play.”

Junior Dylan Thompson will play but how much remains to be decided.

“We’ve got two good ones,” Spurrier said. “We think Connor Shaw, for what we do running the ball, is our best quarterback. Dylan deserves to play in there some also.”

Tailback praise

Spurrier twice praised sophomores Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds as ready to handle the load at running back.

“They’re going to have big years,” he said. “Both these young guys can play. You don’t know much about Mike Davis yet, but watch him play this year.”

Wilds redshirted last year, while Davis had 52 carries for 275 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. They share the team’s top tailback spot on USC’s preseason depth chart.

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