South Carolina Football: 10 players the Gamecocks will need to see step up after the Bye Week

South Carolina football 5-star freshman Nyckoles Harbor. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football 5-star freshman Nyckoles Harbor. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /
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South Carolina Football
South Carolina football defensive backs Nick Emmanwori and DQ Smith trying to wrangle Tennessee’s Squirrel White. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

10 players South Carolina Football must have step up after the Bye Week:
Defensive Backs Nick Emmanwori and DQ Smith

In 2022, South Carolina football accomplished the rare feat of placing two safeties on Freshman All-American teams. Both Nick Emmanwori and DQ Smith were really good against the run last season and racked up a large number of tackles. They each had some good moments against the pass, as well, so the honors were well-deserved.

So far in 2023, both players have been pretty good. They both have made a lot of stops, especially in the run game, and Smith made a nice play on an interception against Tennessee. However, both players have been inconsistent against the pass, and Smith has had some tough moments in coverage, especially in man while lined up in the slot.

As unfair as it might be to say, the South Carolina defense needs these two sophomores to be more than just pretty good the rest of the way: they need them to be great.

Part of the difficulty for the two Columbia natives is that they have been moved around a lot this season. The emergence of Jalon Kilgore as a future star on the defense has meant that both Emmanwori and Smith (especially Smith) have been asked to play nickel at times.

Neither player is a natural nickel and both have been hunted at times in man coverage situations when lined up across from fast slot receivers.

Unless the scheme changes on defense to accommodate one of Smith or Emmanwori playing more of a hybrid ‘backer/safety role, they will continue to be called upon to play out of position for multiple snaps every game.

If they can step up in these situations, a lot of the problems on the Gamecock defense will be fixed as slot receivers won’t go crazy against Carolina (Tulu Griffin and Squirrel White combined for over 350 yards the last two weeks) and the run support will benefit from having Emmanwori, Smith, and Kilgore all on the field together.