South Carolina freshman defensive end Tonka Hemingway is on the two-deep depth chart less than four months after arriving to campus in Columbia.
The Conway, S.C. product’s first few months on campus were most unordinary, but the four-star defensive line recruit did not show any signs of being behind given his lack of time with the football program.
A camp standout among freshmen from the very beginning of preseason camp, when defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson singled him out, Hemingway also has the attention of head coach Will Muschamp.
“I always tell young players when they come into the program, playing early you have to have an opportunity, you have to have the ability, and you have to have maturity,” Muschamp said this week. “You have to be able to handle the playbook, handle different coaching styles, and handle a faster game, especially when you’re playing on the line of scrimmage. Tonka is a very mature young man, mature beyond his years. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s a guy that gets it. When you tell him something he understands it. You don’t have to coach him over and over again on the same things.”
Hemingway will suit up on Saturday night to play Tennessee and backup senior defensive end Aaron Sterling, who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss a season ago. The freshman is listed at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds.
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Hemingway was part of a star-studded Class of 2020 defensive signing class. He was joined by in-state All-Americans Jordan Burch and Alex Huntley as well as Georgia product Makius Scott and Florida product Gilber Edmond. Burch, a five-star recruit and the nation’s No. 8 overall prospect, is also on the Gamecocks season-opening two-deep, a backup to junior BUCK Kingsley Enagbare.
Ranked No. 303 overall by the 247Sports Composite, Hemingway was considered the Palmetto State’s fifth best recruit. He recorded 92 tackles including 24.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks as a senior, and also served as the team’s punter. He was selected to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, named first team all-state by the South Carolina coaches in 2019 and a three-time USA TODAY first-team all-state selection.
Hemingway was one of just six finalists nationally for the 29th Annual Watkins Award given by The National Alliance of African American Athletes to the top African American male HS scholar-athlete. He also played basketball and baseball for Conway, earning first-team all-state honors on the hardwood after averaging 20 points per game.
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