Predictions for the South Carolina football team's two-deep on defense this fall

South Carolina football is 76 days from their season opener. What might the two-deep on defense look like this fall?
South Carolina football linebacker Debo Williams, safety Nick Emmanwori, and tackle TJ Sanders
South Carolina football linebacker Debo Williams, safety Nick Emmanwori, and tackle TJ Sanders / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina Football Two-Deep Predictions on Defense:

While not as much as the defensive line positions, linebacker also will be affected by defensive coordinator Clayton White's formational choices. Most obviously, the 3-3-5 takes away a defensive lineman in favor of another linebacker, and in most instances, one of those 'backers will be used to rush the passer or come on a run blitz.

Debo Williams is as close to a "lock" as one can get at the Mike linebacker spot as the All-SEC selection finished third in the conference in tackles last year. After that, there are tons of options for the Gamecocks when considering the returning players (Williams, Bam Martin-Scott, and Jaron Willis), the transfer portal additions (Bangally Kamara and Demetrius Knight), and the freshman class (Fred "JayR" Johnson and Wendell Gregory).

For the purpose of predicting the two-deep, there will be three starters (Mike, Will, and Sam), and the Sam will be the odd man out in the 4-2-5 and the most common blitzer in the 3-3-5.

STARTER MIKE, Debo Williams

A tackling machine, Debo Williams will play (and should start) for defensive coordinator Clayton White this fall. He finished third in the conference in tackles last season and was the first Gamecock since TJ Brunson in 2018 to tally over 100 stops in a single season.

Williams, primarily, is a run-stopper who does his best work coming downhill. He is improving as a pass defender, but he still will need a rangier linebacker or two on the field with him to help in coverage.

Williams isn't overly big (just 235 pounds) and isn't overly fast, but he is a smart player who makes quick decisions, and when he puts a hit on an opponent, he makes sure they feel it. He will be called upon to be one of the best players on the Carolina defense this fall, and fans should be optimistic that he can pull it off.

BACKUP MIKE, Demetrius Knight

Demetrius Knight was an All-Conference player last year at Charlotte, and he will play an important role for South Carolina football this year.

Despite being the biggest linebacker on the roster (weighing nearly 250 pounds), he has an argument as the fastest 'backer on the team, too. Knight has a good understanding of the game as a former quarterback, and that understanding (coupled with his big-time athleticism) should allow him to play multiple linebacker spots this year.

STARTER WILL, Bam Martin-Scott

The best linebacker on the team in the final few games of the 2023 season was Bam Martin-Scott. The veteran 'backer finally had things "click" for him, and he was rewarded with more opportunities. He had 28 tackles, a sack, and a pass breakup in those last three games against Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Clemson. It wasn't a coincidence that those were the Gamecocks' best defensive games of the season.

In 2024, USC is counting on Bam Martin-Scott being that level of player all of the time. One of the favorites to start alongside Debo Williams, BMS will battle with Demetrius Knight, Bangally Kamara, and Jaron Willis for prominent roles at the position.

Because of the newfound depth at linebacker, Carolina most likely will play a heavy rotation, and Martin-Scott is certain to be part of it. His athletic ability functions well in the 3-3-5 (the outside linebackers have more versatile roles), but he is good enough to play next to Williams in the 4-2-5, as well.

BACKUP WILL, Bangally Kamara

One of four former Pittsburgh Panthers joining the South Carolina football roster from the transfer portal, Bangally Kamara has a high upside at linebacker. He is very athletic and was a solid starter for Pitt the past two seasons.

Kamara will play for the Gamecocks this fall, but he will be part of a group of seniors who all will see significant snaps. Kamara, Debo Williams, Bam Martin-Scott, and Demetrius Knight are believed to be the top-4 at the position, but only two or three will be on the field at a time.

Fans can expect Kamara to play multiple linebacker spots for USC this fall, just as he did at Pitt the last two years.

STARTER SAM, Demetrius Knight

Demetrius Knight could play a lot in 2024, and when the Gamecocks have three 'backers on the field, he would make for a useful starter thanks to his ability to do a little bit of everything at the position.

Speaking of doing "a little bit of everything," Knight is a former quarterback who could be utilized in some special teams trickeration. He once threw for a first down on a fake punt.

As a linebacker, though, Knight can tackle (96 stops last year), cover (3 interceptions last year), and has tremendous athleticism that will allow him to play sideline-to-sideline to stop the run, play against the pass, and rush the passer if asked.

Knight flew around during the Garnet and Black Spring Game, showing off the skillset and athleticism that will push him into the rotation and, potentially, a starting position for the 2024 version of the South Carolina football team.

BACKUP SAM, Jaron Willis

Virtually a carbon copy of Demetrius Knight physically, Jaron Willis is a little lighter (he has spent three fewer years in a college weight room) but has enough size and athleticism to play multiple linebacker roles for the South Carolina defense.

Willis played safety in high school and rushed the passer at Ole Miss before transferring to Columbia, so his skillset matches the versatility in his athletic profile.

Last year, Willis began getting some run in the 3-3-5 toward the end of the year, especially in pass rush situations. He could be in line for a similar role in 2024. If he plays well, though, he will get more snaps.


The top-5 linebackers (Williams, Martin-Scott, Knight, Kamara, and Willis) should get the majority of the snaps this season, but 4-star true freshmen Fred "JayR" Johnson and Wendell Gregory could be too good to keep off the field altogether.

That top-5 will face some changes if Mo Kaba is healthy. A starter in 2022 before an ACL tear, the former 4-star prospect tore his other ACL in the season opener last season. If he makes a full recovery and is a similar player as he was before, Kaba will get some reps. However, with three total ACL tears in his past (he also tore up his knee in high school), Kaba has a tough road ahead of him still.

The Gamecock safeties (Nick Emmanwori, DQ Smith, and Jalon Kilgore) all will play in the box at times this fall, both at nickel and walking down from their safety positions.

Athletic EDGE players like Dylan Stewart, Bryan Thomas, Gilber Edmond, and Desmond Umeozulu could stand up as pass rushers some, but calling them "linebackers" is a stretch.