South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer and his staff had no choice but to play some young talent in the 2023 season. Injuries and personnel holes made playing opportunities available for freshmen who were ready to take them.
Seven true freshmen saw more action than all the others as Jalon Kilgore (safety, nickel), Tro Baugh (guard), Tree Babalade (offensive tackle), Nyck Harbor (wide receiver), Judge Collier (cornerback), Desmond Umeozulu (defensive end), and Pup Howard (linebacker) played significant snaps for the Gamecocks this fall. Redshirt freshmen Jaron Willis (linebacker/EDGE), Emory Floyd (cornerback, nickel), and Keenan Nelson, Jr. (cornerback, nickel, safety) played a lot of snaps, too.
Jalon Kilgore and Tro Baugh were selected as All-Freshman players from the South Carolina football team, joining 2022 recipient Nick Emmanwori (defensive back), 2021 selections Tyshawn Wannamaker (offensive line), Juju McDowell (all-purpose offensive player, return specialist), and Boogie Huntley (defensive line), and 2020 picks Kai Kroeger (punter) and Mo Kaba (linebacker) as current Gamecocks to have been chosen for an SEC All-Freshman team.
Kilgore will be in the running for Freshman All-American teams this offseason on the strength of his 76 tackles (12th in the SEC), 6 passes defended (19th in the SEC), 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. He was 2nd in the league in tackles among all freshmen and 2nd among first-year players in passes defended, as well.
Kilgore was inserted into the starting lineup in week 2 after taking over for an injured Nick Emmanwori who went down early in the Gamecocks’ first game of the season. He never relinquished his spot in the starting 11 but played both safety and nickel. He was also a finalist for the Shaun Alexander Award given to the nation’s top freshman.
Baugh saw action as a reserve in the first few weeks of the season but took over the starting job at right guard as injuries and poor play doomed several other Carolina linemen to the bench. Baugh had his share of ups and downs, but he displayed tremendous potential as a player who could be a big part of really good offensive line units in the future in Columbia.
South Carolina football fans hope to see Kilgore, Baugh, and the other young players turn into the stars of tomorrow in Columbia.