Six South Carolina football stars make Athlon's preseason All-SEC team

Six South Carolina football stars made Athlon's preseason All-SEC team.
South Carolina football defensive back Nick Emmanwori (21) and linebacker Debo Williams (0)
South Carolina football defensive back Nick Emmanwori (21) and linebacker Debo Williams (0) / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, Athlon Sports released their preseason All-American and All-SEC teams. With less than two months remaining before South Carolina football fans get to watch their favorite team play again, six players from the 2024 roster were honored by Athlon.

On the All-SEC 2nd team, defensive tackle Tonka Hemingway, linebacker Debo Williams, and safety Nick Emmanwori represented the Gamecock defense. Transfer running back Rocket Sanders was chosen for the All-SEC 3rd team, and offensive lineman Vershon Lee and punter Kai Kroeger were included on the All-SEC 4th team.

Hemingway is a 5th-year senior who will have an NFL future with a strong showing this year. He has been an All-SEC contributor twice (in 2022 and 2023) and could get snaps at both defensive tackle and defensive end if utilized in the 3-3-5 base defense. The Palmetto State native also has had some success on special teams, both in normal deployment and when used in gadget plays.

Another All-SEC selection from last year, Williams burst onto the scene in his redshirt junior year. After spending his previous years in Columbia as an inconsistent performer, he was among the SEC's leading tacklers in 2023 and should be an important part of the defense again this fall. He is also one of the defense's top leaders and will represent USC at SEC Media Days.

Emmanwori was a Freshman All-American in 2022 and made some All-SEC teams in 2023. Likely an NFL Draft selection next spring, Emmanwori is one of the most physically gifted players on the team. He is excellent in run support and grew as a zone coverage player last fall. He has experience at nickel, too, but he should play safety full-time in 2024 (though, that will include some in-box snaps).

The highest-rated transfer in the Gamecocks' strong transfer portal class this offseason, Raheim "Rocket" Sanders was injured for much of 2023 but was an All-American in 2022 as the best running back in the SEC. If he can bounce back, South Carolina will be much better on the ground this year compared to their all-time worst rushing performance last fall.

Vershon Lee has started games at tackle, guard, and center during his career in garnet and black, but he is the best center on the roster. He is believed to be the starting center as of summer workouts (and started there during the Garnet and Black Spring Game) and is a virtual guarantee to start somewhere on the offensive line this fall.

Viewed as one of the two best punters in the nation in 2022, Kai Kroeger had a good but not great 2023 campaign. His production from last year would still put the left-footed kicker in contention for All-SEC honors, but if he can return to his 2022 form, Kroeger will be an All-American and a potential NFL Draft pick.

All six of these Gamecocks have real claims to preseason All-SEC honors, but there are several other South Carolina football players who would be right to feel snubbed by their exclusion. Defensive lineman TJ Sanders (the #51 overall player in the country according to On3), safety Jalon Kilgore (Freshman All-American in 2023), and longsnapper Hunter Rogers (All-SEC selection in both 2022 and 2023) are among the other players receiving some preseason All-SEC love from other outlets.

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