The issue is related to a student-athlete’s progress toward a degree. Johnstone, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior, has passed 30 hours, including two A’s this summer, but has changed his major twice and reportedly is one hour shy of the benchmark.
“It’s a terrible blow,” Clark said. “This really is a kid who’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. We make a mistake and he pays for it.
“I’m just sickened by it because we thought it would be overturned. OK, we realize it’s a clerical mistake. I think we all just figured once they looked at it, they’d go, 'It’s just a mistake, fix it.' He’s already served one game.”
JSU officials were not immediately available for comment.
The issue surfaced late in the practice week for Alabama State, and Johnstone was held out of the game. The NCAA’s decision will force him also to miss Saturday’s home opener against Jacksonville University and games with North Alabama and Georgia State.
He will return in time for the Gamecocks to start conference play against Murray State.
Clark said Johnstone took the news in stride.
“He said, ‘Coach, I’ll help coach the other guys and get myself better.’ This is a great kid,” Clark said. “That’s what he did Saturday. He encouraged them and helped get them through the game.”
Terrence Pendleton, a 6-0, 315-pound junior from Tanner, again will take Johnstone’s place up front.
“The positive is we had to get ready for it last week, and they got to go through a game together,” Clark said. “Of course, the silver lining is we get him back.”
In a related personnel issue, tests on quarterback Eli Jenkins’ swollen left hand came back negative and the redshirt freshman is expected to be available to play Saturday night against Jacksonville University.
Jenkins hurt his hand on the Gamecocks’ second offensive play in their 24-22 win over Alabama State.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.