Dabo Swinney dubs his 2021 signing class the “Pandemic Posse” and says it’s the most unique class he has signed during his tenure as Clemson’s head coach because of how different the recruiting experience has been amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
A case in point is the recruitment of Andrew Mukuba, a four-star safety from Austin, Texas, who inked with the Tigers at the start of the early signing period on Dec. 16 despite the fact he has never been on Clemson’s campus.
“I’m really excited about Mukuba. He is the epitome of 2020,” Swinney said during Clemson Football’s National Signing Day Show at the Reeves Football Complex. “He’ll laugh when he hears me say that because he knows what I mean. Because there’s a couple of these guys that I never had a chance to meet. Never in my lifetime would I think that would happen. That’s just not how we go about things here.”
Mukuba wanted to visit Clemson but wasn’t allowed to because of the in-person recruiting restrictions implemented by the NCAA in response to COVID-19.
All unofficial and official visits have been suspended since March during the ongoing NCAA dead period, which has been extended through at least April 15, 2021.
“I kept thinking they were going to open things up a little bit and allow maybe prospects to come in where we could visit with them,” Swinney said. “But that obviously never transpired, and then they ended up cancelling all of recruiting. It’s still dead, all the way till April. Because we kept thinking OK, he was going to come to camp. Nope, couldn’t do that. Was going to come to the (All In) Cookout, couldn’t do that. And then it was alright, surely he’ll be able to come to a game. Couldn’t do that. OK, well he’ll come in on an official visit. Couldn’t do that. So, it just kind of kept going.”
Clemson has always appealed to Mukuba, and he actually desired to commit earlier then he did on Oct. 1.
But while Swinney loved Mukuba as a person and a prospect, he was hesitant to accept Mukuba’s commitment because of the fact he wasn’t able to visit, as the Tigers value the opportunity to build relationships with recruits and their families in person and want to get to know them before potentially tying the knot with a recruit, so to speak.
“He’s so funny because he actually tried to commit earlier, and I wouldn’t let him commit,” Swinney said. “He wanted to commit earlier, and I kept thinking, no, I wanted him to come to Clemson. I wanted him to be here. I knew he liked Clemson and he had followed Clemson, but I just felt like with all the quarantine and this and that, he was worried we wouldn’t have a spot. And I kept thinking that maybe they would open it up and let the recruits come in September or come in October, and I just didn’t think it was fair to him.”
“I hadn’t fully embraced 2020 at that point, I guess is the best way for me to say that,” Swinney said.
Although Mukuba couldn’t visit Clemson and spend time with the coaching staff in person, he and the Tigers still built a strong relationship through plenty of virtual communication over the course of the recruiting process.
So, when the NCAA made the call to extend the dead period until next spring, Swinney decided to give Mukuba the green light to commit.
“They come out and they make recruiting dead, and I called him back and said, ‘Well, I guess you’re not going to be able to come (visit), so you’re going to be my first quarantine commit,’” Swinney recalled. “So, crazy, but I feel like I know him well between the Zooms and FaceTimes and all the stuff.”
Mukuba – the No. 5 safety and No. 152 overall prospect in the 2021 class per ESPN – is a versatile player whom Swinney describes as a “dynamic” defensive back.
“Mukuba’s that guy that has the athletic ability to play either safety,” Swinney said. “Could probably play corner if we needed him to. Can play nickel, can play dime. He’s a very dynamic player, just like Barrett (fellow Clemson safety signee Barrett Carter), and also a great offensive player. Was an excellent offensive player at his high school as well. But really, really excited about Andrew and can’t wait to actually like be able to hug him. But he is a great member of the ‘Pandemic Posse,’ that’s for sure, and can’t wait for him to get here.”
Mukuba was named District Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at LBJ High School (Austin, Texas) after recording 27 receptions for 427 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 173 yards and two more scores on 20 carries.
Defensively, the 6-foot, 185-pounder posted 60 tackles, six interceptions and four caused fumbles in 2020.
Mukuba is slated to enroll at Clemson in January.
“Very athletic, has the footwork of a corner,” Clemson cornerbacks coach Mike Reed said of Mukuba during Clemson’s signing day show. “Will strike you as a safety. You’re talking about an old-school safety. He’s one of those guys that can come down and he’ll rock your world. Very soft-spoken kid, great family. Had numerous conversations with him on the phone with little brother. He is a good get for us, truly. A guy that’s going to come here and is going to blossom.”
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