South Carolina football: Israel Mukuamu nominated to Jim Thorpe award watchlist

South Carolina football player Israel Mukuamu finds his name on the preseason watchlist for the Jim Thorpe award.

University of South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu has been nominated to the Jim Thorpe award preseason watchlist ahead of the 2020 season. Presented annually by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, the award recognizes the top defensive back in college football, dating back to 1986.

Previous winners of the prestigious trophy include Grant Delpit, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry, Charles Woodson, and Deion Sanders. This year’s watchlist includes players from 10 different leagues, with the Southeastern Conference leading the way with seven nominees. The last three award winners have all hailed from the SEC.

Mukuamu looks to build on a successful 2019 season, where he led the Gamecock secondary in interceptions. He burst onto the national scene with a three-pick day in South Carolina’s upset victory over the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. He had the play of the game, returning a first half interception for a touchdown, and earned national defensive player of the week honors for his performance.

The 6’4” corner finished the year with 59 tackles, nine passes defended, and four interceptions on his way to second-team All-SEC honors. This is the second award he’s been nominated for, as his name also popped up on the Lott IMPACT trophy watchlist late last month. Mukuamu was recently selected to Phil Steele’s preseason all-conference team last week, just adding to his long list of offseason nominations.

It’s interesting to see that teammate Jaycee Horn was left off the list, seeing as many draft experts see both Horn and Mukuamu as potential top round talents. Either way, they’ll act as one of the SEC’s best cornerback tandems, and this ball-hawking secondary should be the strongest group on the Gamecock defensive unit in 2020.