Sweet beginnings: Jadeveon Clowney

He might be the most hyped player to come into the SEC in a long time, and that’s saying something when you think about how anointed most of these five-star prospects are before they ever play a snap of college football.

South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney makes his much anticipated debut on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C., just a short drive north of where he carved out a legendary high school career in Rock Hill, S.C.

It wouldn’t matter whom the Gamecocks were playing in the opener. Much of the focus still would be on No. 7.

Clowney is a 6-foot-6, 254-pound freak of an athlet who by all accounts will be one of the SEC’s next great pass-rushers.

But he’s only a freshman, and even the most talented freshmen endure their share of growing pains in this league.

Who knows?

Maybe Clowney will skip that part.

Either way, South Carolina is good enough on its defensive line that Clowney won't need to be be the savior right away. He has talented players around him, and while South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is as eager as anyone to see what Clowney can do, the Head Ball Coach is also realistic.

“I think he’s done about what we all expected," Spurrier said. "What surprised us is he’s a little bit of a power rusher also. He can knock those guys backward when he needs to. He’s not just a fast guy coming around the edge.

"Jadeveon has had an excellent attitude. Coach [Brad] Lawing is working him in with all the other guys. He’s done well. He’ll be in early and often, and we’ll let him earn his way as he goes through the season."

In a lot of ways, Clowney has already earned his scholarship before playing his first game Saturday against East Carolina.

Spurrier said there's no way to measure the value of getting the No. 1 player in the country, especially when that player is from your state.

"We appreciate Jadeveon coming here," Spurrier said. "A kid who could have gone anywhere in the nation picked a school with a really not great football tradition, but he believes we can win big. Signing guys like him gives us hope that something good can happen for us. He was a huge sign for us, that the No. 1 guy thinks South Carolina can win big."

Lawing, the Gamecocks' defensive line coach, said Clowney has been unbelievably coachable and that his rock-star status during the recruiting process didn't go to his head.

"It's very impressive to me that he wants to learn," Lawing said.

It's almost as impressive as Clowney's burst and the way he explodes off the line of scrimmage.

"When he mentally sees what he needs to see, he can really accelerate to the football," Lawing said. "I haven’t taught him that. That is God-given. He has tremendous acceleration, and he will play physical, too."