Up next in our series of UDFA profiles is former Notre Dame cornerback Donte Vaughn.
At a hair under 6’3 and weighing in around 212 pounds, Vaughn offers phenomenal size for a corner and fits the type of physical mold Gus Bradley likes in his corners. Since Anthony Lynn became the head coach in 2017, the Bolts have kept three formerly undrafted defensive backs in consecutive years with Michael Davis (‘17), Brandon Facyson (‘18), and Roderic Teamer (‘19).
However, Vaughn’s career at Notre Dame didn’t exactly go as planned. The Memphis-native prepped at Whitehaven High School before signing to play in South Bend, Indiana. He arguably had his best season as a freshman, where he came in alongside former NFL draft picks Julian Love and Troy Pride Jr.
Vaughn played in 10 games back in 2016 and started four. He finished with 22 total tackles, six pass breakups, and a single interception. After a promising true freshman campaign, it was fairly confusing to see him only accumulate four more starts for the rest of his four-year career.
Young guys stepping up.— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 24, 2016
Freshman cornerback Donte Vaughn gets his first career interception in the 3rd quarter. pic.twitter.com/1lwkJDzEie
To gain some clarity on Vaughn, I reached out to Bryan Driskell, the publisher for Notre Dame’s coverage at IrishBreakdown.com. Here’s what he had to say:
“Donte’s career got off to a great start. He was in the same class as Troy Pride and Julian Love, and when they were all freshmen it was Vaughn who played the best. He tied for the team lead in pass break ups despite playing far fewer snaps than Love or Cole Luke. He battled several injuries the next two seasons and got buried a bit on the depth chart in 2017. He played some in 2018 but struggled. he got beat frequently by Pitt and then got beat twice for scores against Clemson, compounding his struggles. As a senior he was much better, when he played. He was inconsistent in the lineup, but when he played he did a good job. He was very good against Virginia Tech’s talented wide receivers corp, and had some very strong moments.”
So injuries were the culprit in this situation that saw Vaughn peak statistically as a freshman. That’s understandable. As well as he played in ‘16, I’m sure it was tough on him to see his career take a nose dive with just one start across the 2017 and 2018 seasons and 19 total tackles to his name through that span.
But as a senior in 2019, Vaughn took advantage of an injury ahead of him and played admirably, especially in the game against Virginia Tech mentioned above by Driskell. He collected three more starts and played in 10 games total, finishing the season with 16 total stops and five pass breakups.
If there is anything to take positively from Vaughn’s situation, it’s that he landed in a good situation and he fits the mold for a Bradley cornerback. His size and length will allow him to build on a sturdy foundation with which to work with.
When I asked Driskell what coverage scheme he believes Vaughn could thrive in, he mentioned that a Cover 2 scheme where he could utilize his size and length to re-route receivers off the line and jump underneath routes could play to his strengths. He did mention, however, that Vaughn will certainly need to improve his tackling.
It’s a long shot for Vaughn to make the final roster, but his physical traits are worth a stash on the practice squad as a developmental piece for Bradley. No reason to stop going to that well of UDFA DB development if it hasn’t stopped working for you yet.