South Carolina Football: Gamecock senior named "defensive tackle to watch" for 2025 NFL Draft

South Carolina football defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway was named a defensive tackle to watch ahead of the 2025 NFL Draft.
South Carolina football defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway
South Carolina football defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer and defensive coordinator Clayton White recognized last season that something had to change on defense. The Gamecocks were getting gashed up front in the run game, were generating virtually no pass rush, and couldn't stick with receivers in coverage.

A switch from the 4-2-5 to the 3-3-5 seemed to solve a lot of the issues, but what really made the most difference was how well the defensive line played in the new scheme. Defensive line coach Travian Robertson did a great job with his rotations, and players like Tonka Hemingway, TJ Sanders, and Jordan Strachan thrived.

Over the weekend, Gamecock defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway was named an NFL Draft "defensive tackle to watch" by Pro Football Focus.

Hemingway quietly has been a major producer for the South Carolina football program over the past couple of years. Playing primarily at defensive tackle, the Palmetto State native has enough versatility to play a big defensive end spot in a 3-man front or in short yardage sets.

Hemingway has shown big-time potential as a pass rusher and a run stuffer in his career. Most recently in 2023, #91 was one of just ten defensive tackles from power conferences to earn PFF season grades of 75 or better in both the run game and passing game.

Over the past two seasons, Hemingway has tallied 65 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. He also has developed a knack for knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. He was named to PFF's National Team of the Week last year after having a big showing against the Vanderbilt Commodores, making 5 tackles and knocking down 3 passes.

Now a fifth-year senior, Hemingway briefly flirted with the NFL a season ago, but he is back in Columbia for one last ride before next April's draft. He is an intriguing prospect, one that even caught the eye of Philadelphia sportswriter Devin Jackson last year when watching Cam Smith and Darius Rush tape for the '23 draft.

Hemingway will be a big factor in South Carolina football's success in 2024, and if he has a good year, it should spell positive things for the Gamecock defense and, hopefully, the team's win total.

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