To Play Or Not To Play

Jadeveon Clowney

Once again everyone wants to know what Jadeveon Clowney will do only this isn't about recruiting and what school he will attend. This time it's about whether the consensus top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft will return to play in Columbia for his junior season or sit out this fall.

It's déjà vu for Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney was the undisputed No. 1 high school football recruit two years ago. He could have named his school. Anyone and everyone wanted to know what lucky college football program would land him. It was if the circus came and town and stayed. It got crazy.

Would it be Alabama or South Carolina? He committed and signed with the Gamecocks almost two weeks after national signing day on his birthday, Valentine's Day.

Fast forward to today and a national debate has emerged as to whether or not Clowney should even play his junior season this fall to avoid major injury. Clowney, a 6-foot-6 and 273-pounds defensive end, is projected to be the No. 1 guy in next year's 2014 NFL Draft at this time.

Someone that knows Clowney as well as anyone is Bobby Carroll, Clowney's head coach at Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe High School. They have had a close relationship since Clowney first stepped out on the football field as a high school freshman.

"Being his coach and going through all that we went through we have a very good relationship," Carroll said. "I would like to see him stay and finish out what he started at South Carolina, at least through next season. Clowney has a lot to think about because he's future is so bright."

Clowney is scheduled to enter his [true] junior season this fall. Current NFL rules prohibit Clowney and other second year players from entering the 2013 NFL draft because you have to be out of high school for three years. So the soonest he would be eligible for the NFL Draft would be next year.

Here's where this conversation ultimately begins. Some have put it in Clowney's head that he should not play this fall, sit out and work towards the 2014 draft.

Case in point is his teammate in Columbia, running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore would have been a sure fire first round pick but he suffered a devastating knee injury against Tennessee in late October. Clowney saw the horrific injury with his very own eyes. Of all people Lattimore believes Clowney will return and play this fall.

"That wouldn't be a good move for him," Lattimore said. "He can't miss the season and I know he wouldn't do that to the team. He loves the game too much and he loves to win."

Still for Clowney, it's damn if you do and damn if you don't. No matter what he chooses there's risk but such is the life for a football player.

"I don't think him staying will help his draft status because he will be no worse than a top five pick," Carroll said. "Jadeveon has nothing to prove. But if he comes back and gets injured that could hurt him in next year's draft. I know sitting out won't help him but I don't think it hurts him either."

Don't get Carroll wrong as he believes Clowney should stay and play for the Gamecocks next season. He could take out an insurance policy to hedge his bet if injured. Clowney could also further enhance his incredible skills at the defensive end position and be even further along in his developmental process as a football player.

"As good as he is and he's special now, Jadeveon still has so much to learn," Carroll said. "Think about what he could learn as a player next season."

The 20-year old Clowney is once again cast in the public's eye. It's not about his play on the field but whether or not he should play this season. Most feel he will be back but that's a decision that has not yet been made with 100% certainty.

"I haven't had a chance to sit down and speak with him since this all came up," Carroll said. "But we have been texting back and forth and I get the sense that he just doesn't want to talk about it. It's just like it was about two years ago at the end of recruiting with him. I sense he's a little frustrated about the whole entire situation."

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