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What the commitment of Clemson transfer S Andrew Mukuba means for Texas

The Longhorns have their potential replacement for Jahdae Barron.

Jahdae Barron with Andrew Mukuba
via Jahdae Barron’s Instagram

Andrew Mukuba is coming home.

Three years after the Austin LBJ product spurned the Texas Longhorns to sign with the Clemson Tigers, the standout safety is headed back to the 512 after committing to the Longhorns on Monday after an official visit on the Forty Acres.

Here’s what his addition means to the Longhorns.

A potential replacement for Jahdae Barron

After moving inside from cornerback two years ago, Barron became one of the nation’s best nickel backs and projects as a mid-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, so the Longhorns will need to replace the starter at a position that featured sophomores Jaylon Guilbeau and Austin Jordan as the co-backups to Barron ahead of freshman Jelani McDonald.

Mukuba will arrive on the Forty Acres in January as the top-ranked safety in the transfer portal with the versatility to play free safety or in the nickel. As a freshman at Clemson, the 6’0, 195-pounder played the majority of his snaps at free safety while also splitting time at nickel and as a box defender. In 2022, Mukuba had a nearly even split between safety and nickel with less time in the box before playing over 300 snaps at nickel this year, according to Pro Football Focus.

After grading out as well above average as a run defender and tackler in 2021, Mukuba saw some regression in both of those areas over the last two seasons, including the highest missed tackle rate of his career, but he was excellent in coverage in 2023, allowing completion on 52.9 percent of his targets, giving up 136 total yards on 7.6 yards per reception for an NFL passer rating of 62.9.

If Mukuba performs as well as he’s capable as a run defender and tackler while maintaining the coverage ability he showed in 2023, he’ll solidify his status as a high-level NFL Draft prospect in 2025.

Potential position changes

Mukuba’s versatility complicates his projection into the Texas defense, but if he does end up in the nickel, it could cause some position changes for the Longhorns.

To give Guilbeau more opportunities, the coaching staff could crosstrain him at cornerback, where he played two snaps in 2023 while spending the vast majority of his playing time in the slot or as a box defender.

Jordan could also change positions again after serving as the primary backup to the boundary in 2022 before moving to nickel during the offseason. The Denton Ryan product is a candidate to move back outside or even to safety, where some evaluators projected him out of high school.

And McDonald is an intriguing prospect who could complement Mo Blackwell in the hybrid strong-side linebacker role.

The bottom line — trying to find playing time for three talented players behind Mukuba is a good problem to have for defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and his assistants.

Texas players continue to be the team’s most important recruiters

If sophomore running back Jaydon Blue was a crucial component of the recruiting pitch to his former high school teammate Matthew Golden when the Houston transfer committed to Texas last week, Barron was a key recruiter of Mukuba.

A year older than Mukuba, Barron played at Pflugerville Connally in high school and has his own perspective on indirect paths back home — Barron originally signed with Baylor as part of the 2020 recruiting class before seeking a release from his NLI after Matt Rhule left for the NFL, eventually landing at Texas.

And Barron also understands the benefits of playing under Longhorns secondary coach Terry Joseph, who helped Barron develop the ability identity tendencies on film and how to disguise his coverages to take advantage of that preparation.

So even though Texas seemed like the logical destination for Mukuba when he left Clemson for the transfer portal, having Barron on the roster helped ensure the Longhorns didn’t miss on Mukuba for a second time.

The Longhorns rectified another recruiting miss

The current staff wasn’t able to secure a commitment from Golden out of high school after entering his recruitment late, but weren’t on campus yet when Mukuba made his decision pledge to Clemson during the pandemic.

Former head coach Tom Herman and his staff offered the local product three weeks before Clemson, but turmoil on the coaching staff and a roster that wasn’t willing to sell the program the same way current players do to recruits all hurt Texas.

But the transfer portal has changed the dynamic of missing on players like Golden and Mukuba and Sarkisian and his staff have built the right culture off the field to influence success on the field and in recruiting.