Nearly two weeks after naming the Texas Longhorns as a finalist, Vanderbilt safety transfer Donovan Kaufman’s second recruitment has come to a close, but he’ll be remaining in the SEC with his commitment to the Auburn Tigers, he announced on Wednesday.
A former three-star prospect out of Louisiana, Kaufman garnered interest from a number of programs after he elected to transfer after just one season at Vanderbilt, where he started the first two games of his collegiate career before he contracted COVID-19 as the Vanderbilt team suffered an outbreak. Furthermore, Kaufman was then ruled out for the season in early November after developing myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle usually caused by a viral infection.
Those health issues effectively marked the end of his time in Nashville, and he’ll now be much closer to home in Auburn. However, he could just have easily ended up in Austin.
Texas was under consideration in part because Kaufman has connections to former Commodores support staffers like Chief of Staff Jason Grooms and Director of Recruiting Operations Taylor Searels, as well as analyst Cordae Hankton, who graduated from and coached at the same high school Kaufman attended, Archbishop Rummel.
At Auburn, the new defensive coordinator is former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, who brought cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge and analyst Bryce Lewis with him to the plains of Alabama to join Bryan Harsin’s staff.
“I’m not going to lie to you, you could pick them out of a hat and I wouldn’t be mad with either one,” Kaufman recently said of Texas and Auburn. “It’s a toss up. Obviously it’s a big decision. But I’m not trying to think too much about it. I’m still working out and getting ready.”
Of course, when it came time to actually pull from that hat, it was Auburn’s name that surfaced.
As for Texas, promising young prospect Jerrin Thompson looks to be in line to secure the role Caden Sterns left behind at free safety, while former Oregon safety Brendan Schooler, who switched to receiver for the Horns last season, and BJ Foster are in a battle to secure the other safety spot. Kaufman could have made for an interesting fall camp as Texas looks to solidify the safety spots that will feature two new starters, but the concern there is the general lack of proven and experienced depth.
Fortunately for Texas, the issue isn’t one of talent, as besides Thompson and the battle between Schooler and Foster, which should end with a quality reserve option, former four-star safety prospect Tyler Owens could begin to see the field in a more significant capacity. He’s played sparingly in 22 games throughout his two seasons in Austin, largely because of the previous depth at the position, but he was regarded as an elite physical prospect with track speed.