Lindsey: Hemingway has 'the chance to be a really good player'
It was a little bit less than a year ago when Tonka Hemingway was making headlines as a freshman at the defensive end spot.
Fast-forward a few months and it’s still Hemingway earning the praise of the Gamecocks’ coaching staff and new defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey.
The only difference is he’s doing so at a new spot as he transitions to the interior defensive line.
“I think Tonka has the chance to be a really good player. He’s actually been a surprise in how he’s been able to hold up inside. When guys make the transition from being an edge defender to an inside player it’s a totally different world,” Lindsey said. “The blocks inside happen a little faster than they do on the edge. I’m very pleased with where he’s at through four practices.”
Hemingway, who played in all 10 games last season with three starts at defensive end, is moving inside this spring and is expected to help the defensive tackle room.
Lindsey said Hemingway is spending “all of the time” with the interior defensive line as opposed to splitting time between the interior and edge defenders.
As a freshman he made 16 total tackles, one for loss, with a forced fumble and two passes defended.
A former three-sport athlete in high school, Hemingway is still very young in his football-only career and Lindsey thinks there’s a lot of potential in Hemingway’s 6-foot-3, 270-pound frame.
“He’s another guy who’s a young player,” said Lindsey. “He has to continue to get better each day and hone into to the fundamentals we’re teaching. He has a bright future.”
Hemingway is adjusting to the defensive line room well and enjoying getting to spend more time with Lindsey and the new defensive staff.
His athleticism and build alone will be able to help the Gamecocks’ push inside.
“I love Tonk. He’s a guy that reminds me of myself. He can play inside and outside. He has the tools to rush the passer and stop the run,” Jabari Ellis said. “Seeing him play inside right now is going to be big. He can definitely do both. It’s just a matter of him taking the step to build himself for inside.”
Hemingway will undoubtedly help an already deep defensive line room headlined by Ellis and Zacch Pickens but includes Rick Sandidge, Alex Huntley, Keem Green and young guys like Nick Barrett and incoming freshman TJ Sanders.
Lindsey said his goal is to get six to eight guys ready to play and he thinks they’re close to six guys who can play on Saturdays.
“I’ve been pleased with the way the guys have been working,” Lindsey said. “Obviously it’s a new defense and different techniques and drills. The guys have bought in and have been doing a nice job of that.”