South Carolina Football: Two Defenders Projected as First Round Picks

The South Carolina football team has two NFL prospects starting on the back end of its defense in cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu.  Both have shown up as first-round selections in recent mock drafts.

CBSSports released an NFL mock draft this week, and one current Gamecock is listed as a headliner.  Cornerback Jaycee Horn is projected to be selected with the 29th pick by the New Orleans Saints, the team his father, Joe, played for from ’00-’06.

Here’s what CBS had to say about Horn:

Joe Horn’s son comes home to play for the Saints? It is a story straight out of NFL folklore. New York finally parted with Janoris Jenkins. There is no reason to believe that the Giants’ cast-off is the answer for the Saints.

The junior-to-be has been a two-year contributor for Will Muschamp, tallying 85 tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles over his short career.  He’s also only given up two touchdown receptions since taking over his starting role as a freshman.  Horn excels in press coverage and is a true lockdown corner, which results in opposing quarterbacks typically avoiding his side of the field.

The Alpharetta, Ga native is still looking for that elusive first interception.  He was close last season, as he had one called back due to a penalty in the Florida game, and had another slip through his fingers in the opener vs. North Carolina.  This will be the year he gets it.

Horn isn’t the only member of the South Carolina secondary being mentioned as a first-round pick, though.  Fellow corner and roommate, Israel Mukuamu, has been projected by both SportingNews and ProFootballNetwork to come off the board early in the 2021 draft.

south carolina football

Israel Mukuamu #24 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

SportingNews lists Mukuamu as the 23rd overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts, while ProFootballNetwork ranks the 6’4” defender as a top 15 selection, going 12th overall to the Denver Broncos.

Mukuamu experienced a breakout season in 2019, racking up 59 tackles and defending nine passes.  He certainly benefited from opponents choosing to throw away from Horn, and turned his extra opportunities into a team-high four interceptions.

Mukuamu was a difference maker in the Gamecocks’ upset of No. 3 Georgia last October, picking off Bulldog quarterback Jake Fromm on three occasions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.  That performance alone helped the second-year player generate some buzz amongst NFL draft experts.

If both players perform to these lofty expectations, the Gamecocks secondary could cause some fits for opposing offenses.  They’ll need to bring their ‘A-game’ week in and week out, though, as they face a number of talented quarterback/receiver duos.

They’ll be tasked with stopping Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence-Justyn Ross connection, both of whom are projected first-round picks.  They’ll also face off against new Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman, another projected first-rounder, and his sophomore stud receiver George Pickens, as well as possible top-five selection Ja’marr Chase and his new signal caller at LSU, Myles Brennan.  And that’s just in the month of November.

Other quarterbacks on the Gamecocks’ schedule include Florida’s Kyle Trask, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, and Kentucky’s Terry Wilson, Jr.  It certainly won’t be a cake walk, but the South Carolina secondary should be equipped to give opposing passers some issues, with Horn and Mukuamu leading the way.