South Carolina football: 3 questions in the secondary

Israel Mukuamu #24 and Jaycee Horn #1of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Israel Mukuamu #24 and Jaycee Horn #1of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The South Carolina football season is getting closer, and there are questions and battles at each position ahead of the season’s start. Here, we focus on the secondary.

The Gamecocks’ season opener is set to be played on September 26th, though the opponent is not yet known. As the 10-game campaign creeps closer, South Carolina has just a little bit longer to answer unknown questions, sort through position battles, and get prepared for game one.

Let’s look at three questions that face the South Carolina defensive backs.


Horn is the Gamecocks’ best cover corner, though he hasn’t always gotten the same notoriety as teammate Israel Mukuamu. One reason is that he’s yet to record an interception despite making 22 starts over his first two seasons.

Though he’s been overlooked by those who pay attention solely to the box score, others around pro football circles believe Horn may just be the best cornerback prospect in the class of 2021.

And there are stats that back that up. According to Pro Football Focus, in over 1,400 career snaps, Horn has been targeted only 100 times, resulting in just 57 completions. Diving deeper, he’s allowed just two touchdown passes over his first two seasons.

The one thing that’s missing from the trophy case is that evasive first interception. He was close last year, having a pick slip through his fingertips in the opener against North Carolina, and having another called back due to penalty in the Florida game.

We’re on record saying that 2020 will be the year he finally gets the monkey off his back. It also may be his last year in a Gamecock uniform.


Israel Mukuamu made headlines last year with a three-interception performance in the Gamecocks’ upset win of No. 3 Georgia. That, of course, was with Mukuamu playing the corner position. But many around the program believe that the 6’5″ defender can be more effective as a safety.

Being able to roam freely in the back end of the secondary could allow him to better utilize his length and athleticism. In order to make this move, though, the Gamecocks would need someone to step up and take his place at cornerback.

Those options could be either John Dixon or Cam Smith, both of whom have spent one season in Columbia.

Will Mukuamu play corner or safety in 2020? The answer is most likely a combination of the two. Having an athlete like Mukuamu lining up all over the field could help disguise defenses and keep opponents guessing. It will be fun to see the new looks when the season begins.


We’ve already mentioned one option at safety in Mukuamu, but who are the others should the corner not be able to make the transition?

The first is RJ Roderick, who’s been a two-year starter since arriving to campus in 2018. In that time, he’s appeared in 23 games, totaling 106 tackles, two picks, and two forced fumbles. The hard-hitting safety should be a front runner to earn a starting job.

All-conference freshman Jammie Robinson is also an option. After splitting time at safety and nickelback in 2019, he could see an even more prominent role as a sophomore. In his first season, Robinson recorded 62 tackles (46 solo), a forced fumble, and an interception.

The Gamecocks often play with five defensive backs, meaning they’ll need to pinpoint one more back to fill out the secondary. Safety Jaylin Dickerson received high praise from head coach Will Muschamp as a freshman, but his career has so far been derailed by injuries. He recently applied and was granted a sixth season of eligibility, leaving him three more years with the Gamecocks.

Other options are Shilo Sanders, who redshirted last year, and some of the newcomers in the 2020 recruiting class. The secondary is certainly talented, having a number of all-conference performers, but South Carolina still needs players to step up for the group to maximize its production.

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