Auburn football: Eku Leota, Donovan Kaufman projected top transfers

Auburn football (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Auburn football (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Auburn football has been active on the transfer market since hiring Bryan Harsin in January and filling out his support staff in the weeks that followed. After finalizing Derek Mason as his defensive coordinator, the pickups at that end of the ball have arguably outshined the offensive portal gains.

That isn’t to downplay what Harsin and Mike Bobo have done either. Bringing TJ Finley over from Baton Rouge gives Bo Nix an abundance of reasons to bring his A-game week in and week out this season, with the former LSU QB not only being the shot in the arm Nix needs to improve, but also a legitimate threat to line up under center in week one as well.

Not only that, but Central Michigan running back Jordon Ingram–who many saw as having the talent to land with a Power 5 program out of high school–also made his way back to his home state last week when the Mobile native joined a now-stacked Auburn football RB room led by Tank Bigsby and Shaun Shivers.

That said, there’s no doubt that the biggest additions were made on the tackling side. Just as it has been since Cam Newton left the Plains, it will be the defense that leads the Tigers into the Top 25 if they break through in Harsin’s first year.

When asked which transfer would have the greatest impact next season, Opelika-Auburn News’ Justin Lee tabbed SEC transfer, Donovan Kaufman, as the go-to gridiron gatekeeper in the secondary:

"Donovan Kaufman, the safety transfer from Vanderbilt, returned kicks for the Commodores and could be back there playing that role for Auburn, too.Defensively, it’s easy to see how he might be able to carve out an impactful role with SEC experience under his belt and having already played for defensive coordinator Derek Mason. But right off the bat, I could see him making contributions on special teams."

Kaufman will be sharing kickoff return duties with Tank Bigsby and Shaun Shivers based on how Harsin used the two during the A-Day Spring Game. During the season, it could make more sense to deploy Kaufman more than the backfield pair to reduce wear and tear.

Lee’s colleague, Jordan Hill, had a different name in mind. He believes that Eku Leota–who missed Northwestern’s Citrus Bowl victory over Auburn football on New Year’s Day–would be the most noteworthy addition to Mason’s point-prevention troupe:

"Leota was Harsin’s first big recruiting win at Auburn, and I predict it will be one that pays major dividends this fall. He played well under legendary Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz in 2020, and despite only playing in eight games he had 5.5 tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks.For context, Leota’s sack numbers would have tied Owen Pappoe and Colby Wooden for tops with the Tigers last fall. Adding Leota, who according to College Football Film Room brought pressure on 14.3 percent of his pass-rush snaps last fall, could be the piece needed to put the Tigers’ defense over the top."

Personally, Leota seems like the safer bet to make an impact immediately. He recorded four sacks in a shortened Big 10 season, so the spotlight could be on him frequently when the Tigers DL overwhelms opposing OLs this coming season.

Either way, Fly War Eagle hopes this pair could further solidify a unit that features star power in the secondary and sturdiness in the front seven.

Next. Knighten another expected defensive contributor. dark