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Gamecocks Keep Defensive Line in Tact

Gamecocks keep defensive line

Run It Back

There was much uncertainty concerning the Gamecocks defensive front after the loss to Clemson ended the season for South Carolina. However, the interior of the defensive line will return its three-headed monster in 2024. Boogie Huntley, Tonka Hemingway, and TJ Sanders all signed with The Garnet Trust, one of Carolina’s NIL collectives. This indicates that they will all stick around for another year. The Gamecocks still need to find a true zero technique to play the nose in Clayton White’s scheme change. However, these three veterans continued to show how disruptive they could be in the latter part of 2023. Keeping the defensive line together will allow the Gamecocks to build momentum for next season.

The Numbers

Each of the three defensive tackles played all 12 games this season. Here are the numbers for them individually:

Sanders — 43 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks

Huntley — 33 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks

Hemingway — 32 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 6 quarterback hurries

In a year where the Gamecocks struggled to get to the quarterback and force negative plays, these three accounted for one-third of the tackles for loss and nearly 40% of the sacks. Although the team as a whole had a down year, losing any or all of their experienced interior defensive linemen would significantly reduce the known production along the line of scrimmage. Returning production is quickly becoming one of the most analyzed statistics to predict a team’s future success in the preseason rankings and evaluations. By keeping the defensive line together, the Gamecocks have a more than serviceable front to work with. 

How It Happened

Each of these three players had a bit of a different path to returning for 2024. However, the commonality between the three of them is their home state: South Carolina. As local products, they have a deeper tie to the University and the fanbase. In a college football landscape where loyalty has gone the way of extinction, there is still something to be said for playing for your home crowd. 

Hemingway was the player who was most linked to another school. With former Gamecock defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey now coaching in Baton Rouge, Hemingway has a connection to LSU. The Bayou Bengals got word to Hemingway that they were interested in him. But after some consideration, he seemingly decided that was an itch he did not need to scratch. 

Huntley will be a redshirt junior in 2024 and explored options of declaring for the NFL Draft and the transfer portal. Sanders just finished his redshirt sophomore season and has more time to work with. In the case of all three, the Garnet Trust got it done. While money isn’t everything, it certainly helps. Funds provided to recent campaigns allowed the Gamecocks official NIL collective to get several players the compensation they deserve and keep them in the boat for another year. 

Work To Do

The transfer portal works two ways. In the past, the Gamecocks have greatly benefited from portal additions, namely Spencer Rattler. With the recent departure of Juice Wells, in the same way he came in via the portal, fans are hyper-focused on the loss aspect of the transfer portal. Now it may be time to shift the focus to additions. South Carolina needs a veteran quarterback to serve as a backup, two quality running backs, as many receivers as they can get, and probably some offensive linemen as well. Sticking with the defensive focus, edge rushers are a major priority for Carolina this cycle. 

With the retention of three defensive tackles, the need inside is less, but a true nose guard would certainly fit and help in the 3-3-5 scheme that the Gamecocks shifted to late in the year. If White is retained, the new scheme will probably become the base in 2024. Shane Beamer and his staff are on the hunt, holding together the 2024 high school class, and once again looking to be a major player in the transfer portal. 

Stay tuned for more on players and coaches on the move. Expect staff changes to be announced after National Signing Day.

*The Garnet Trust also signed the following players:

Joshua Simon, tight end.

Bam Martin-Scott, linebacker.

Tree Babalade, offensive tackle.

Luke Doty, quarterback/wide receiver.

Jalon Kilgore, safety.

O’Donnell Fortune, cornerback.


Gamecocks keep defensive line
Photo courtesy:  David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports


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