‘Go be everywhere’: Mukuba a chess piece in the back of Clemson’s defense
Just as Andrew Mukuba played last season as a freshman safety for Clemson, that doesn’t mean he’s exclusive to the position.
In fact, it’s been anything but this spring.
Mukuba quickly established himself as the most versatile defensive back on the Tigers roster. He was successful at both free and hard safety, nickel and corner in Clemson’s first 12 spring practices. Those reps were split fairly evenly across each position, he said.
“I am an athlete,” Mukuba said. “Wherever they need me, I feel like I can go out there and get the job done.”
That’s what he did last season mostly with solid security, where Mukuba quickly climbed up the depth chart after signing up last January. He started his first collegiate game in the season opener against Georgia and had nine more starts, finishing with 54 tackles and nine pass breakups en route to freshman All-America honors.
But Mukuba is used to being moved. He split his time in nearly every high school position as one of the nation’s top defensive prospects at Early College High in Austin, TX. Where he lined up was based largely on the type of offense the opposition ran with their staff, which Mukuba said was also the case at Clemson this spring.
“It just depends on the type of day and what we’re working on,” Mukuba said.
Mukuba said Clemson is also working on installing a speed package under first-year defensive coordinator Wesley Goodwin, which is when he typically moves to nickel. In that package, Mukuba said, RJ Mickens takes over with solid safety while Barrett Carter, the Tigers’ ultra-athletic sophomore linebacker, acts as sixth defensive back.
“Mukuba is a special player, and he does it in three different positions and he picks up,” said co-defensive coordinator Mickey Conn, who also coaches safeties. “All that knowledge is going to do is help him and help us get more speed on the pitch when we need it.”
Mukuba said there was something to like about every position. There’s a sense of comfort that aligns with solid security after playing there almost exclusively for a season. On the two corner spots, he admitted he likes playing inside more because his skills can be used in a variety of ways at the nickel, although he said he also likes the competitiveness of being on an island outside.
“I feel like I should have a few reps on the corner just to go out there and show what I can do on the corner, but you’re definitely going to see me a lot at the nickel covering the split, blitz and in the box. a little bit more action there,” Mukuba said. “But I’m also going to be a lot at security. So I’m going to be kind of everywhere.
Conn isn’t the only coach to have seen Mukuba take his game to another level this spring. Head coach Dabo Swinney said Mukuba has “come a long way” both mentally and physically since arriving on the Clemson campus 15 months ago, which is part of why the coaching staff feels comfortable enough to use the youngster as a chess piece on the pitch. the back of the defense.
Part of Mukuba’s maturing process is not dwelling on what he’s already accomplished at Clemson, including his all-ACC selection last season. Mukuba said he has already moved on from those accolades. He already has another prize in sight.
“It would be a dream come true for sure to get this Jim Thorpe award,” Mukuba said. “He’s the best defensive back in college football, so I wonder why not get to him?”
For now, Mukuba said his main goal is to build on what he did last year in order to best help the Tigers wherever that may be.
“I really like playing football,” Mukuba said. “Wherever the team needs me and where I feel comfortable, that’s really where I feel I can do my best.”
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