• Assets: A unique combination of length and athleticism make this Memphis product an intriguing prospect. Plays with outstanding pad level and knee bend for a taller cornerback prospect. All arms and legs for offensive player trying to detach himself from the blanket coverage. Aggressively employs his hands while using his body to shield a receiver on deep balls while using the sideline as his ally. A thorough tackler in that he wraps well and scrambles the receiver/ball carrier upon contact.
High-caliber athlete with long, aesthetic stride. Not afraid to press at the line of scrimmage. A man among boys as ball carrier from quarterback position or slot receiver. Shows maneuverability in traffic on offense and excellent body control when breaking down for an open-field tackle.
Plays with a love for the game and enthusiasm. Has the size and versatility to play safety in the box or as a last line of defense. Even has the frame to play outside linebacker, although that might not be a maximization of his skill set.
• Room for improvement: Does he have the quickness out of the backpedal to play cornerback? Does he have the free-and-easy hips to make the quick flip necessary to stay with speedy receivers? Not many questions beyond that.
• Top eight: Notre Dame; SEC: Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M.
• Early line: Vaughn has visited Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame, but among his top eight, seven are SEC schools, including Auburn, which offered him first, LSU, which Vaughn noted for its production of defensive backs, and Tennessee because of its overall atmosphere.
Vaughn declared Tennessee and Mississippi as his top two back in October. He visited Notre Dame in June, and made a return trip this past weekend with his father.
“It’s more of a family at the school because some of the coaches went to school (there),” said Vaughn to Irish Illustrated’s Steve Hare. “Basically, I want a school that’s going to help me get a career after college and football.
“One thing I really like about Notre Dame is some of the coaches that are coaching there now actually went to school there,” said Vaughn, noting former Irish players/coaches Todd Lyght and Autry Denson.
Vaughn has said he’d like to make a mid-October announcement to coincide with his birthday.
• ND’s 2016 cornerback recruiting: With a target of two cornerbacks this recruiting cycle, the Irish have been halfway there since the third week of March when three-star Julian Love (La Grange Park, Ill.) pledged to Notre Dame.
In addition to Vaughn, the Irish have realistic shots at four-star cornerbacks Jordan Fuller (Old Tappan, N.J.), Damar Hamlin (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Eric Cuffee (Waco, Texas) and Chase Lucas (Chandler, Ariz.).
• ND’s 2016 cornerback depth chart: Barring injury, there’s virtually no chance of KeiVarae Russell returning to Notre Dame in 2016. He’s more likely to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft than a fifth-year senior next year.
The rest of the cornerback contingent will be back, led by ’16 senior Cole Luke. Devin Butler also will be a senior while Nick Watkins will be a junior with three years of eligibility. Current freshmen Shawn Crawford, Nick Coleman and Ashton White will be in their second years at Notre Dame with three or four years of eligibility.
• Summary: After studying Vaughn’s film, the question appears to be what position ultimately will allow him to maximize his potential, not whether he can be a success on the next level. His rare combination of size/length and athleticism gives him an excellent chance to excel as a college football player.
There is a lot to like about Vaughn, and if Notre Dame can land him, he – along with Spencer Perry – would give the Irish tremendous length on the back end for the future. Perry may grow out of the safety position and become an outside linebacker, and Vaughn could end up on the last rung of the defense. Either way, Notre Dame would have uncommon size in the secondary.
The concern in the pursuit of Vaughn is that every other top competitor for his services is an SEC school, so either he’s going to go completely against the grain and choose the Irish, or he’s going to choose one of those SEC schools that are such an allure for today’s top prospects.
This is one of those prospects that you keep an eye on, regardless where he chooses to attend, just to watch the process of transforming a long, athletic defensive back on the prep level who can control the flow of most games into a college football defensive back. This Memphis product has much to offer.