South Carolina Football: Gamecock defender finishes season among SEC’s top tacklers

South Carolina football linebacker Debo Williams rushing the passer against Furman. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football linebacker Debo Williams rushing the passer against Furman. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina football fans weren’t sure how to feel about linebacker Debo Williams heading into the 2023 season. The former Delaware transfer had shown some really impressive flashes in previous seasons (mainly as a big-hitter in the run game), but he wasn’t able to play well consistently enough to insert himself into a starting role on the defense.

That changed this fall as Williams was a clear starter coming out of the offseason. #0 opened the season with a strong 14-tackle performance against North Carolina. He went on to finish the season with 7 games of double-digit stops, good for 113 total tackles and the 3rd-spot in the SEC yearly rankings.

For perspective, those 113 tackles made him the first Gamecock to finish a year with 100 or more stops since TJ Brunson in 2018. He reached the mark in South Carolina football’s 11th game. Only Mississippi State linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson had more tackles than Debo Williams this season.

Williams upped his game in a big way in 2023, leading a defense that struggled most of the year before turning in its three best games of the season in the last three times they took the field.

Though he had just one sack on the season, Williams showed some pass rushing chops this season, as well, especially in the A-gap. He forced quite a few hurried throws this season by generating inside pressure, and his aggressive style of play and strength allow him to compete with offensive linemen and backs who try to impede his progress toward the quarterbacks.

Williams’ strong season has generated some mild NFL buzz. The thumping linebacker would fit in well as an inside ‘backer in a 3-4 system that allows him to focus on stopping the run and taking opportunistic chances to rush the passer rather than dropping back in coverage.

If he elects to return in 2024, and there has been no indication that he is leaving, Williams will enter the year as one of the top run-stopping linebackers in the SEC. Partnering with Bam Martin-Scott (who emerged as a really good player in the 3-3-5) and an improving young group of Stone Blanton, Pup Howard, and Jaron Willis, the Gamecock linebacker unit might be the defense’s top position group heading into next year.

Known as one of the hardest-working players on the South Carolina football team, Williams will have the chance to mentor incoming freshmen 4-star linebackers Wendell Gregory and Fred “JayR” Johnson next season, as well.

Related Story. South Carolina Football: What positions must the Gamecocks hit the hardest in the transfer portal?. light