The transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh. Earlier this year, it gaveth in the form of Northwestern defense end Andrew “Eku” Leota and West Virginia cornerback Dreshun Miller. This week it has taketh with former 4-stars Jaren Handy, Jay Hardy and Chris Thompson Jr. announcing their intentions to enter the portal along with backup QB Chayil Garnett. Chances are good, it shall taketh more in the coming days as well. But as always so too shall it giveth.
(Ok I thinketh, I’ve driveneth that to the groundeth)
Ever since being hired as Auburn’s new defensive coordinator, Derek Mason has clearly made bolstering Auburn’s safety depth a priority. That need becoming more obvious with yesterday’s news that Thompson is leaving the Plains. He offered and subsequently landed two safety prospects during the late signing period in 3-stars Juwon Gaston and Cayden Bridges. He heavily pursued West Virginia transfer Tykee Smith who ultimately chose Georgia. Now, Auburn is reportedly in hot pursuit of Vanderbilt transfer Donovan Kaufman.
Mason beat out Florida State to land Kaufman in 2020. The Louisiana native went on to earn a starting gig as a true freshman and was an immediate impact player in the Commodores first two games recording 15 tackles and 5 kick returns for 137 yards. Unfortunately, Kaufman missed the rest of the season after testing positive for COVID-19. Despite his limited action, many believed the 5’9” 195 lb playmaker had a chance to be the best player on Vanderbilt’s roster this fall before entering the portal.
Now his former head coach is looking to sign him again but faces some stiff competition. The Texas Longhorns are reportedly hard after Kaufman as well and have hosted the Vanderbilt transfer on a virtual visit. Kaufman told AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr that he’d like to have a decision this month and that it’s a toss up at the moment.
For Auburn, that relationship with Derek Mason could prove the deciding factor. Mason earned his signature back in 2020 after visiting Kaufman’s dad in prison. Some in Nashville believe that the whole reason he went into the portal was to follow Mason to the Plains. We’ll see if that’s true. Were the Tigers to land Kaufman, it would give Mason the flexibility to slide Ladarius Tennison back to nickel if needed while also infusing some much needed talent in a room suddenly very thin. A decision should come in the near future.
Two Top Targets Eliminate Auburn
The Tigers got some bad news on the trail this weekend when 4-star OT Elijah Pritchett dropped a top 8 that did not include Auburn. I thought Auburn’s chances weren’t great with the blue chip offensive tackle prospect out of Columbus, GA but I was very surprised the Tigers didn’t even make the cut. The Crimson Tide look to be the team to beat.
It wasn’t just Pritchett though that trimmed his list to exclude Auburn. 4-star linebacker Shemar James, one of my favorite players in this class, announced a final 2 earlier this week featuring Alabama and Florida. Like Pritchett, overcoming Bama would be tough but I thought Auburn might be able to make things interesting especially after an official visit. Both were scheduled to take OVs to the Plains but now it looks unlikely either will happen.
So where does Auburn go from here? The good news is that plenty of targets remain on the board both at offensive tackle and linebacker.
Up front, Auburn is still believed to be the team to beat for 3-star Eston Harris Jr. They are also expected to host 3-star Jacob Hood on an official visit. Hood’s recruitment is shaping up to be a big time Auburn-Georgia battle this summer. The Tigers could also snag an official visit from 3-star Leyton Nelson. I expect more names to pop up in the coming months as well especially with Auburn able to host camps on campus.
At linebacker, Jeff Schmedding is hard after 4-star TJ Dudley and 4-star DeMario Tolan. Per AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr, Tolan has scheduled an official visit to the Plains on June 11th. He was one of the first prospects Schmedding offered upon being hired. The Florida native is scheduled to visit LSU, Tennessee, and Miami as well. Florida State is also a big time player in this race.
Auburn is also a major player for 3-stars Omar Graham Jr. and EJ Lightsey. Graham has already scheduled an official visit for this summer and I expect Lightsey to do the same at some point. While neither sport the flashiest rating both have impressive offer lists. Graham in particular is someone I could see being a 4-star by the end of this cycle.