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South Carolina football draft prospects to watch when the Gamecocks play Florida
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 19: Jaycee Horn #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks goes after a pass against C.J. McWilliams #12 of the Florida Gators during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 19, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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South Carolina football draft prospects to watch when they play Florida

South Carolina will walk into a tough matchup on Saturday as they face the Florida Gators. The 2020 Gators is one of the most talented teams that Florida has had in recent memory, and they are looking to keep up the momentum against the Gamecocks. However, the Gamecocks have lots of talent of their own, including some NFL Draft prospects. Which South Carolina draft prospects have NFL football ahead of them?

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South Carolina Football Draft Prospects: Make sure to watch CB Jaycee Horn

One of two star cornerbacks in the Gamecocks secondary, Jaycee Horn, is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. Like his dad, he has the same compact, broad build that makes him look like a football player. While his dad caught passes, Horn is trying to intercept them. However, Horn is yet to intercept a pass in his entire college career, though he does have 17 pass deflections. Overall, though, Horn’s a fascinating study at cornerback.

He is a decent athlete, but not one that will blow you away. Especially concerning are his tight hips, which is to be expected from someone with a heavy-legged frame like Horn. A traditional flip of the hips is not going to work for Horn, but he has mastered the speed turn. With adequate long speed, it seems to work for him. Horn is more comfortable with using his length and physicality to strike receivers down. He is a player that is subsequently sticky in man coverage. Horn gets pesky and uses that length and the pop from his strikes as a weapon.

Related | 2021 NFL Draft: A tale of two South Carolina cornerbacks

A press corner first and almost everything coming second, Horn is a very team-specific cornerback. While he can play off-man coverage, that hip tightness can get him beat. Horn’s footwork is filled with false steps, and they look heavy. In addition, while he is physical, that can manifest too many penalties at the catch point. Overall, Horn is a guy who does certain things exceptionally well, and with the right team, can blossom, but you have to be willing to deal with his ups and downs.

CB Israel Mukuamu

South Carolina draft prospects start with the cornerbacks. The word that comes to mind when I watch Israel Mukuamu is upside. You don’t find 6’4″ cornerbacks every day. Much like Horn, Mukaumu is a press-man cornerback first. That is more than okay, though, as he has elite length and is a problem for receivers on the boundary. His physicality is ramped up even a notch from that of Horn’s skill set.

Where Mukuamu makes his money is in run support. He is one of the best pure run support cornerbacks in this class. That length comes in handy when defeating blocks, and he is a marvelous tackler in open space. South Carolina even occasionally sends Mukaumu on blitzes because of his unique set of skills.

However, he is tight-hipped to an unbearable degree. Whenever you see Mukaumu get beat, it is mostly due to this fact. Antoher part of his game that plagues him is even though he is physical, that mostly comes from his competitive toughness. His frame is wiry, and he has a lot of muscle to add to his frame in general. It is always going to be the quick receivers that give Mukuamu trouble with that tight-hipped aspect of his game. Despite the upside, it hurts his stock to where NFL teams likely push him into day two.

WR Shi Smith

South Carolina has had some success pushing out draft prospects at the wide receiver position. Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards are the latest examples of that. Shi Smith, who is stepping into the top receiver role in this offense, is the next guy up. Almost exclusively a slot receiver, Smith does offer some intriguing additions to an offense.

Related | Three critically underrated prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft

Smith has vice-grip hands. This is a player that simply does not drop passes. With notable quickness and a savviness to attack leverage with ease on his releases, Smith functions as an excellent chain mover out of the slot. His routes could get crisper as he does round them off at the top of his routes at times. Smith’s feet need to get quicker to snap off those routes quickly.

Still, this is a prospect who changes direction quite well laterally and has a great middle of the field route tree. Even after the catch, Smith has some lateral quickness in the open field to make guys miss. By no means is he elite, but this is an area where he is solid, which just about sums up his game.

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