USC Gamecocks Football

What South Carolina’s four-star talent who had to sit out has shown Jake Bentley

What South Carolina’s Will Muschamp likes about Israel Mukuamu

South Carolina Gamecocks football's Will Muschamp likes about early enrollee defensive back Israel Mukuamu, who could be an impact player in USC's 2018 secondary.
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South Carolina Gamecocks football's Will Muschamp likes about early enrollee defensive back Israel Mukuamu, who could be an impact player in USC's 2018 secondary.

At times this football season, it seemed South Carolina would send in any defensive back who was vertical just to have a complete secondary on the field.

That’s every defensive back save for Jamel Cook, a four-star talent, who had to say in the wings, waiting for his chance.

Next year, the former Southern Cal recruit will be a part of South Carolina’s defense. At 6-foot-4, the South Florida product brings something unusual with his ability to play corner at that size.

All season, he’s been a part of South Carolina’s scout team, working against the starting offense. That means matching up with Jake Bentley and leaving a bit of an impression.

“He’s really long,” Bentley said. “That’s one thing that you kind of look at him and see similarities between him and Israel (Mukuamu). “Just super long. Really hard to get it over the top of them. Just a guy that’s really going to just get better.”

The third-year sophomore played sparingly in his two seasons with the Trojans. He’d been a dominant player at Miami Central High School and a top-100 recruit, and he departed the West Coast last offseason.

So the question now becomes; how do the Gamecocks use him next season?

USC coach Will Muschamp has said again and again that his aim is getting his best four, five or six defensive backs on the field. His team is set to lose a trio of starters, but will also return a large batch of defensive backs with some experience.

The freshman trio of Mukuamu (a safety and corner), R.J. Roderick (a safety) and Jaycee Horn (can play anywhere) are all back and have a lot of promise. Injured starter Jamyest Williams will return, as will developing safety Jaylin Dickerson. USC will possibly have former grad transfers J.T. Ibe and Nick Harvey, who are both seeking medical redshirts, and add intriguing corners Cam Smith and John Dixon to the mix.

And then there’s Cook, who has played all three spots at points in his college career. Despite a build that would fit a safety, Will Muschamp insisted he was a corner, and Bentley confirmed that’s where he mostly played.

He or Mukuamu could find themselves at the safety spot simply because both being a different dimension with their size, and South Carolina never got all that consistent there outside maybe Roderick, a true freshman coming off a high school career at quarterback.

But for the moment, that pair of 6-foot-4 players are corners, and if they end up USC’s duo on the outside, it would present quite a look for the opposition.

“It’s a different challenge of how you’ve got to throw at them,” Bentley said. “You’re not going to get a lot over the top on them because they have enough speed to go get it, and so long, just able to cover so much area.

“It’s a really unique skillset.”

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