LITTLE ROCK — South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward listened to Jadeveon Clowney complain about the slew of Arkansas players blocking him and then explained the facts of life to the defensive end.
"I told him if he’s going to wait to get some one-on-one blocking, he’s probably going to wait until he gets to the NFL," Ward said after the Gamecocks’ 38-20 victory over the Razorbacks.
In other words, dealing with No. 7 is the first priority of every South Carolina opponent. Arkansas was so cognizant of Clowney that Ward could hear members of the Razorback offensive line yell "Clowney left" when the 6-foot-6 sophomore moved inside as he had done on occasion against Tennessee.
Clowney and Devin Taylor may be the best pair of defensive ends in the country, claims South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. LSU’s Les Miles can make an equally compelling case for his bookends, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Arkansas’ offensive line could cast the deciding vote Friday.
On SI.com, Mingo was No. 1 on a list of the top 50 players in a midseason look at the 2013 NFL draft. "Mingo offers more impact than any player in this draft, and has the ability to line up at a number of positions in the front seven," the article said. Listed at 6-5, 240, Mingo ran the anchor leg of his high school’s 2009 Louisiana 5A state champion 4x100-meter relay team.
Montgomery was No. 17 on SI.com’s ranking and would have been higher except for what the author described as personality issues.
Clowney would be in the top five except he’s not eligible until the 2014 draft.
Praising Arkansas’ opponents serves to note that Arkansas does not have anybody comparable to Clowney or Mingo or the others and to warn that quarterback Tyler Wilson is likely to take a beating in his final game as a Razorback.
Clowney and his cohorts sacked Wilson three times and received credit for a fourth when Wilson was called for intentional grounding. Last week at Mississippi State, Wilson was sacked twice and threw two interceptions. LSU is third in the Southeastern Conference in sacks behind South Carolina and Ole Miss.
Wilson’s two interceptions and three lost fumbles are part of 29 turnovers for the season — tied for 112th in the country. For those who like balance, there have been 15 interceptions and 14 fumbles.
After scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions, the Razorbacks had five punts, five turnovers, and a fourth-down failure.
Leaving Starkville, I was not surprised that Ole Miss was giving LSU fits, but I was surprised that the Rebels were piling up points, scoring three touchdowns on plays of 30 yards or more. LSU won by doing what good teams do, hanging in despite adversity and winning in the fourth quarter. For Arkansas fans hoping the Tigers would lack incentive on Friday, the victory put 9-2 LSU in position to play in the Sugar Bowl if Florida loses to once-beaten Florida State on Saturday.
The positives for Arkansas are few, but the return of wide receiver Brandon Mitchell and linebacker Terrell Williams can help.
With Mitchell held out of four games, probably because of a an NCAA compliance issue, Wilson’s downfield targets have been limited. Last week, Hamilton caught seven for 88 yards and Javontee Herndon had a season-high six. A half-dozen other receivers caught 11 for a grand total of 61 yards. A telling note is that tight end Chris Gragg is still the team’s second leading receiver with 22 catches compiled in five games.
Believing that LSU will beat up Arkansas on the line of scrimmage, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. The only question is how many people show up to appreciate Wilson, Hamilton, Dennis Johnson, and other seniors for their continuing efforts during a disastrous season.
LSU 35, ARKANSAS 17.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is email@example.com.