A little over a year after signing with the Vanderbilt Commodores out of high school, safety Donovan Kaufman is going through the recruiting process all over again, narrowing his choices to the Auburn Tigers and the Texas Longhorns, Kaufman told Anwar Richardson of Orangebloods.
A number of other programs reached out to Kaufman, a 5’10, 190-pounder from New Orleans who was considered as a consensus three-star prospect ranked as the No. 415 player nationally and the No. 37 safety, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. One of those programs was Florida State, one of 20 schools to offer Kaufman in high school, but the Seminoles are no longer under consideration.
Texas is 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.
“Both new head coaches, so new staffs, you know that they’re gonna be there for at least, let’s just say at least three years — I’m trying to be out three and out — so I’ll be starting with a new staff,” Kaufman said. “We’ll be starting fresh and both teams are capable of winning it all, they’ve both won natties before, so it’s nothing new to them. They’re just missing that piece to get back, like a lot of other schools, but I also feel like I know people on both staffs also, so I know that I’ll be taken care of if I do go there.”
Kaufman got off to a strong start in his college career, starting the first two games, making 15 tackles and breaking up one pass while also serving as a kick returner, averaging 27.4 yards per return.
Then Kaufman contracted COVID-19 as the Vanderbilt team suffered an outbreak and was ruled out for the season in early November after developing myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle usually caused by a viral infection.
Isolated away from his family in Louisiana and unable to play football, Kaufman decided that he wanted to be closer to home — Auburn is a five and a half hour drive away from New Orleans and while Austin isn’t as close, it is a city where Kaufman said that he believes that he can build his brand with name, image, and likeness changes on the horizon.
Auburn does have a returning starter at safety in Smoke Monday, but the other prospective starter, Ladarius Tennison, didn’t start as a freshman until the regular season finale. In addition, Duncanville product Chris Thompson Jr., a one-time Texas target in the 2020 recruiting class, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday.
Texas has a safety competition underway between Brenden Schooler and BJ Foster with Jerrin Thompson seemingly locked in at the other position, but needs depth at the position.
In looking at the safety depth charts for both schools, the Tigers may have a slight advantage over the Longhorns in terms of the opportunity to come in and earn a starting job in preseason camp.
The ability to play for Mason, the head coach who recruited him out of high school, could impact Kaufman’s decision, too — his connections to Texas are all on the support staff.
Kaufman is busy finishing up his classes at Vanderbilt and plans on making a decision at 3 p.m. Central on Wednesday. Auburn currently holds Crystal Ball prediction from the publishers of the 247Sports Auburn and Vanderbilt sites.