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 Predictions for Two-Deep on Defense:

The nickel spot used to just be a situationally used position in which teams would put a reserve corner (or an athletic safety) in the game to help out in obvious passing situations. Now, the position is almost always on the field as offenses have changed to favor the passing game and running plays that create more space and open field.

The nickel has to be able to tackle and cover, something that was a bit of a struggle at times last year for the Gamecocks. Nick Emmanwori and DQ Smith were asked far too many times to mark good wide receivers in man coverage. Jalon Kilgore was a little better at the spot, but the fit still wasn't perfect.

The 2024 Gamecocks seem set to continue playing those three safeties (with one at nickel), but there are a few other players who could get involved at the team's nickelback position.

STARTER, Jalon Kilgore

Jalon Kilgore is listed as the starter at safety and nickel, and that is because he will start at one of the spots. Though safety is his best position, he has seemed to be better at nickel than Nick Emmanwori and DQ Smith, so it seems likely that he will play there again to start 2024.

Kilgore has the tackling chops to play the position (he finished second on the team with 76 tackles in 2023), and he has enough fluid athleticism to hold his own in coverage.

Unless the philosophy behind the nickel position has changed this offseason, Jalon Kilgore will be the starter in the slot.


A part-time starter at nickel in both 2022 and 2023, DQ Smith will get some snaps there again in 2024. The Columbia-area native is a good tackler, but his man coverage skills were put to the test too often last year when he was asked to stick with shifty slot receivers.

Smith likely won't see many snaps at nickel this fall unless (at least not in man coverage), but until depth pieces are ready to contribute, if Jalon Kilgore isn't in the game, Smith (or versatile veteran David Spaulding) could slide down from safety to fill the spot.


David Spaulding is the most experienced non-safety nickel on the roster, having played the position some in each year since 2021. It would not be a surprise for him to be asked to help out there again in 2024 despite a position move to corner last year.

Jalewis Solomon and Vicari Swain are the two most naturally gifted young corners on the team, so there is a chance they force their way onto the field at nickel similar to Jaycee Horn in 2018.

Other defensive backs like Emory Floyd, Gerald Kilgore, and Buddy Mack will provide depth at the nickel spot, and freshmen safeties Kelvin Hunter and David Bucey could have futures at the position.

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