UK Football

Kentucky-South Carolina notes: Clowney most feared of Gamecocks sack masters

Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow was sacked by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in September 2012 as the Gamecocks defeated Kentucky 38-17. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow was sacked by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in September 2012 as the Gamecocks defeated Kentucky 38-17. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Jadeveon Clowney's helmet-relocating hit in last season's South Carolina bowl win over Michigan no doubt keeps opposing coaches up at night.

Kentucky's offensive line coach John Schlarman admitted the Gamecocks' defensive end has caused him to wake up in the middle of the night wondering how he'll stop Clowney.

"When I get to go to sleep, I do" wake up thinking about him, UK's offensive line coach said this week. "He's a great player."

Clowney, who has 12 tackles, including three for a loss, two sacks and four quarterback hurries this season, is one of several South Carolina players causing sleepless nights.

"Those guys are really good at getting tackles for losses and, obviously, (Clowney)'s probably the most dangerous pass rusher in the country," Schlarman said. The Gamecocks have had 12 sacks in four games this season. "So you'd better be on your 'A' game."

Clowney, who didn't practice on Thursday but is expected to play on Saturday against Kentucky, has drawn criticism for not playing hard enough this season. He's had people question his effort, his stamina.

Coach Steve Spurrier doesn't. He's been happy with the junior, who in Spurrier's estimation has "two guys blocking him about all the time."

If UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown had his way, he'd put more than two on Clowney, who helped South Carolina collect 45 sacks last season, sixth-best in the nation.

"If they'd let us play with 15, we'd do that for sure," Brown said. "You have to account for him. There's no question. He's a dynamic player. Any adjective you want to use, it's accurate. He's big, he's strong and explosive. You have to account for him because he's so disruptive."

Brown said if Clowney's numbers are slipping from a season ago when he had 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13 sacks, then it's because he has two or three players blocking him at all times.

That will be part of UK's plan against the likely first-round NFL Draft pick, sometimes sending multiple players to hold him off, but also a few one-on-one battles with Darrian Miller.

Kentucky's offensive line has given up the most sacks in the league with 10 for 70 yards, but four of those came in the fourth quarter last week against Florida. Until then, coaches were pleased with the Cats' front-line production.

Brown said two of those sacks were "gifts" given to the Gators' Donte Fowler. One was a mental error by Miller, the other was a miscommunication between the center and right guard.

"That won't be an issue" this week, Brown said. "We'll get those corrected. I don't think you'll see those. We may get beat in one-on-one situations, but I don't see us blowing those calls again."

No position-switch glitch

One of those offensive linemen charged with the grueling task of going against Clowney and company will be Max Godby, a former walk-on making his second career start at left guard.

He was a surprise starter last week at a position he wasn't even listed as a backup for on the depth chart. He replaces longtime starter Zach West.

Godby earned a right to keep starting last week, Brown said.

"He did well; for his first start I was very pleased with the effort," the UK offensive coordinator said of the former Louisville Christian standout. "He gives great effort, goes in battles, he's tough. He's a very smart kid. But I thought for his first start ever going up against the Florida Gators, one of the top defenses in the country, he did great job."

At his news conference on Monday, head coach Mark Stoops had equally glowing things to say about the former backup center, who he awarded with a scholarship at the end of fall camp.

"I think it's very important to Max and maybe what he doesn't have physically he makes up for with his determination and effort," Stoops said. "It's important to him, he plays extremely hard."

'Going to have our hands full'

Mark Stoops admitted there's not much he can do to fully prepare his freshmen for their first Southeastern Conference road game.

It will be his first trip, too.

Fourteen newcomers, including eight true freshmen, have played for UK this season and it's important that they not get rattled by the sold-out crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium (capacity 80,250).

"It will be a challenge for us and it's something that we need to show some mental toughness and not let the game get out of hand, because I know they're capable of it," Stoops said of South Carolina, which has won 13 in a row at home, a place where UK hasn't won since 1999. "They're a very good team on all sides of the ball. So we're going to have our hands full. ... We'll see how much our team has matured."

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