Two South Carolina football linebackers make list of SEC's top returners

South Carolina football linebackers Bam Martin-Scott and Demetrius Knight cracked PFF's top-10 list of SEC returners at the position.
South Carolina football linebacker Bam Martin-Scott making a tackle against Vanderbilt last season
South Carolina football linebacker Bam Martin-Scott making a tackle against Vanderbilt last season / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina football fans are optimistic that the 2024 version of the team's defense will be an improved unit.

After a dismal start to the 2023 campaign turned into an awful first nine games for that side of the football, the Gamecocks switched to using a 3-3-5 defensive scheme as their primary defense, and the results were much better. USC surrendered its three lowest scoring outputs in the last three games of the year.

The improvement, scheme change, and emergence of new contributors late in the year gave fans reason for hope in the '24 unit, and the addition of new faces through recruiting and the transfer portal only have grown those hopeful expectations.

The Gamecocks and their fans are not the only ones with growing expectations for their defense.

This week, Pro Football Focus unveiled their SEC returning linebacker rankings, and South Carolina football placed two on the list as returner Bam Martin-Scott and transfer portal addition Demetrius Knight cracked the top-10. "Returner" only means returning to college football, so transfers qualify.

PFF's list is based off of last year's individual player grades, and Knight (77.8) ranks third in the SEC among returning players and Martin-Scott (74.9) checks in at 5th in the conference. Knight spent last season putting together an All-AAC season with the Charlotte 49ers while Martin-Scott was the best linebacker on the USC defense in the final couple of games.

The Gamecocks also return the SEC's third-leading tackler from last season in Debo Williams, so for the first time in a long time, fans of the garnet and black can be confident in their men in the middle of the defense. Williams, Knight, and Martin-Scott are the three favorites to play the most snaps for Carolina this year, but players like Bangally Kamara, Jaron Willis, Fred "JayR" Johnson, Wendell Gregory, and Mo Kaba will compete for snaps, as well.

If the linebacker play is good for South Carolina football this fall, the Gamecocks could be in for the best defensive year in a while in Columbia.

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