Former Gamecocks CB Israel “Izzy” Mukuamu, is the third player we’re going to take a look at in our draft series.
Mukuamu had a very, and I mean VERY, up and down career as a Gamecock. From minimal playing time as a freshman to emerging as a top corner in the country in 2019, and ending with his decision to opt-out of the 2020 season after former coach and current Georgia water-boy Will Muschamp was fired.
Izzy started his career with the Gamecocks after being recruited out of Bossier City, LA, and was a three-star recruit in the class of 2018. He chose the Gamecocks over Georgia, Florida St and others, and was a large prospect at the corner position.
His 6’4 196lb frame, (205lbs now) is unseen for most corners and allowed him to potentially provide a rare value for the Gamecocks on the defensive side of the ball.
Going off of his build, Mukuamu could provide any NFL team with that same rare value, a tall corner that can be a HUGE asset in the red zone from stopping big targets. The keyword in that statement however is could.
Izzy has the size, playmaking ability, and more to succeed in the NFL, but there are some concerning aspects to him as a prospect as well.
Let’s take a look at all the good, bad, and potentially unnecessary information about Mukuamu and try to piece together the best possible place for him to land in the league, as well as where he will most likely end up.
22 Games Played, 86 TOT Tackles, 10 PD, 1 FF, 7 INTs, 1 TD
Izzy Mukuamu has 2 very important strengths. His size and the guy is an absolute playmaker when he wants to be.
All you have to do to see just how unreal he can be is watch the 2019 game against Georgia in Athens. To this day that is the best singular game, I’ve ever seen a defensive back play.
Granted, Jake Fromm isn’t the greatest quarterback ever, but that Georgia team was good, and Mukuamu not only had 2 great interceptions, multiple knockdowns, and a score, he helped lead the team without its starting QB to an insane upset.
Now in other games, he made plays too, like the one-handed INT against Florida, but that instinct to “make a big play” isn’t something a lot of defensive players have, even at an elite level.
Pair that with a 6’4 frame and big things could happen.
Now that I’ve praised him, said he could be great, all of that… let’s have a little bit of an honesty section.
Mukuamu made an absolute scene when he opted out of the 2020 season, a season where disappointing wouldn’t even be critical enough for his level of play. This is obviously compared to where it was expected to be in 2020.
He wasn’t bad in this past year, just based on where myself and other Gamecock fans thought he could take his game, he didn’t meet those expectations. The best examples of this are 2 games, LSU and Ole Miss.
Was Izzy injured? I have no idea if he played through whatever kept him out of the Auburn game, but boy did he look lost in those 2 games.
The Gamecock defense gave up 52 and 59 in these games, with Mukuamu recording 4 total tackles and 0 PD, struggling against both teams. Granted, the whole team was hurting, but he couldn’t even be a bright spot.
This all culminated in a Twitter war when after Mukuamu and others opted out the 2020 season, he decided to respond to a tweet sent out by Gamecock legend DJ Swearinger.
Mukuamu, in a now-deleted tweet, sounded childish and embarrassed himself publicly in this exchange, something I would hope an NFL GM would take note of due to how big social media can be these days for players. Mukuamu also showed no appreciation for Gamecock fans, stating that they were a terrible fanbase, even responding to former Gamecock Javon Kinlaw, who even used explicit words to describe his feelings for the fanbase.
This could be the Muschamp culture, but it is very concerning leadership/teammate-wise going directly into an NFL career.
Israel Mukuamu doesn’t have a lot of glaring on the field weaknesses. He’s a playmaker, has good speed for his size, can cover multiple areas and concepts, his frame, etc.
This is all well and good until as mentioned numerous times, you look at the end of his career as a Gamecock. I hope and pray that his performance this year was injury-ridden and he excels like crazy at the next level but the fact he suited up and took snaps, him looking completely gone from the game against LSU and Ole Miss will be how I remember his last year, added on with his Twitter exchanges.
Whether you like it or not, social media is apart of a professional athlete’s career, and although some will disagree, it hurt his stock to me, along with him opting out in the first place.
With all that being said, I have a clear floor and ceiling for Izzy, and they both remind me of two corners that made up one of the best secondaries of all time.
Starting with his floor and as states below, Brandon Browner, former CB for the Seahawks and Saints. Browner had great size and excelled as the legion of booms number 2 corner for the Seahawks Super Bowl run, but that was it, one year and a vanished career, which could very well happen if Mukuamu doesn’t accept a role early and put in the work.
His ceiling, future HoFer Richard Sherman. In a different way, yes, but Sherman was a 6’4 playmaking corner at his peak, with a long career built on all his physical attributes, leadership, and work ethic.
Is Israel Mukuamu a product of Muschamp’s terrible defensive leadership? Is his effort a huge issue? Will he fit in an NFL locker room where he isn’t being coddled by coaches?
These questions hurt his stock in my eyes, but I still hope Izzy has a great NFL career and uses all that natural talent to his advantage from day 1.
Floor: Brandon Browner, Ceiling: Richard Sherman
My Hope: New England Patriots, I do not care whe
My Projection: Round 4, 99th overall, Atlanta Falcons