South Carolina Football Offseason Autopsy:
Grading the Linebackers
Early in the 2023 campaign, the Gamecock linebacking corps looked to be a huge negative for the team. Despite some decent tackling totals, Debo Williams and Stone Blanton were being taken advantage of in coverage, and run fits were a bit hit-or-miss at times.
Both players got better as the season went along, and the emergence of Bam Martin-Scott helped the unit in a big way.
By the end of the year, the Gamecocks felt really good about Williams and Martin-Scott, and Blanton’s role made a lot more sense when yielding some snaps to Pup Howard and Jaron Willis.
Williams finished strong enough to lead the SEC in solo tackles (and finish 3rd in total tackles), and he was chosen as a 2nd-team All-SEC performer for his efforts. Martin-Scott had 28 tackles over the last three games of the year, and though none of the ‘backers were coverage stalwarts, the unit was better against the pass after the switch to the 3-3-5.
The late-season improvements bring this grade up a lot. The poor pass defense and inconsistent run stopping would have yielded a pretty bad score. Instead, over the final three games, the linebackers tallied 73 total tackles, and they were the best pass rushers on that team over that same span.