Auburn made some important moves last week adding two likely impact players in nose tackle Tony Fair and safety Bydarrius Knighten. However, both only have a single year of eligibility remaining. If you are going to borrow against the 2022 class to add players from the transfer portal, you’d prefer to use some of those spots on players who have a chance to stick around for awhile.
That’s exactly what Auburn is getting in former Vanderbilt safety Donovan Kaufman.
A freshman starter for the Dores last fall, Kaufman elected to enter the portal last month and immediately received interest from numerous top programs from around the country. Three emerged as the top contenders in Auburn, Florida State, and Texas. FSU narrowly missed on Kaufman when he signed in 2020 and were hoping to not miss twice. Texas is in need of safety help and have a number of off-field staffers who worked at Vanderbilt last year. But neither program had Derek Mason who built a strong relationship with the Louisiana native during the 2020 recruiting cycle and fended off numerous big time programs to get him to Nashville. That relationship worked in Auburn’s favor as the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator was able to snag the prized transfer.
Kaufman only played 2 games in 2020 missing the rest of the season after testing positive for COVID-19. However, in just a limited number of snaps Kaufman made his presence felt recording 15 tackles and returning 5 kicks for 137 yards. A number of folks that know Vanderbilt football much better than me believed he had a chance to be the best player on their roster this season.
Just like SEMO safety transfer Bydarrius Knighten, Kaufman is extremely versatile. He split his time between nickel and safety for Vanderbilt last fall. He’s a quick, rangy player that can do everything from covering a tight end coming off the line of scrimmage, to matching up with a slot wide receiver, to filling the alley and making a play on the running back. He’ll have a chance to compete for a starting job this fall.
All of a sudden Auburn’s safety room looks MUCH better. Given the losses of Jamien Sherwood, Jordyn Peters, Christian Tutt, and Chris Thompson Jr., Auburn’s nickel and safety depth chart was looking quite thin. Now the Tigers can roll four deep at both positions. In fact, Mason now has a strong 2 deep in his defensive backfield, loaded with versatile players who will give him the freedom to come up with some creative game plans depending on that week’s opponent. If the Tigers can develop any sort of pass rush, this defense has a chance to be really good this fall.
Auburn probably isn’t done either. On Friday, Kansas defensive line transfer Marcus Harris is expected to make his decision and the Tigers are viewed as the overwhelming favorite. LSU quarterback T.J. Finley could make a decision at any time though he told AL.com’s Tom Green he’d like to wait for the SEC intra conference transfer rule to be officially passed before making a decision. There’s also Central Michigan running back transfer Jordon Ingram and Texas A&M linebacker transfer Ke’Shun Brown. Auburn is also constantly monitoring the portal for offensive line help and a veteran impact player at wide receiver.
Bryan Harsin is not interested in a slow rebuild. He’s looking to compete for an SEC West title immediately and landing Kaufman is just another step in that direction.
War Eagle Donovan!