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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Press Conference Notes: Kaufman out for season, Marlow out against Mississippi State

Two of the Commodores’ most dynamic playmakers will not suit up against Mississippi State, one for the remainder of the season due to a “medical-related issue.”
Derek Mason on the sidelines of Vanderbilt’s home game against Ole Miss on Oct. 31, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Truman McDaniel)

Following a 54-21 home loss to Ole Miss, the Commodores complete their two-week gamut of teams from Mississippi when they travel down to Starkville to play Mississippi State this Saturday at 2:30 PM CST on SEC Network. 

In Tuesday’s press conference, Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason confirmed a report that standout defensive back Donovan Kaufman will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. 

Donovan Kaufman is out for the season with a medical-related issue,” Mason said, providing no further clarification on the medical issue. 

Kaufman did not play in Week Three against South Carolina nor Week Five against Ole Miss (the Week Four game against Missouri was postponed). On Oct. 9, Kaufman suggested in a since-deleted tweet that he had tested positive for COVID-19. His unavailability for the remainder of the season was first reported by Vanderbilt football radio sideline reporter Kevin Ingram. 

“It’s always gotta be about the next man up, and the next man up right now is [junior safety] Brendon Harris,” Mason said. “Brendon Harris has been in the program. He understands what it is. I think Donovan is a different type of player. As most of you got to see in only a small game sample, he’s different in terms of what he brings to the table — defensively, special teams. He’s a dude that’s an impact player, and Brendon’s gonna have to step up and fill that role.” 

Kaufman isn’t the only playmaker inactive for the Commodores’ foreseeable future; junior running back Ja’veon Marlow will miss Saturday’s upcoming away game at Mississippi State. 

“Ja’Veon Marlow has been suspended for a violation of team rules. Ja’Veon will be back, but he won’t be available this week,” Mason said. 

The depth chart released on November 3, 2020 didn’t list starting fifth-year senior offensive lineman Drew Birchmeier and sophomore linebacker Anfernee Orji. 

“Birchmeier may be available this week, but we’ll find out a little later this afternoon,” Mason said. “I’ll have a better idea on Anfernee [Orji] this afternoon as well… we’ll see where it takes us.” 

Despite key personnel losses, the Commodores have reason for hope: Mason talked about success in scheming for protecting freshman quarterback Ken Seals. Vanderbilt’s defense finished Saturday’s game with more TOT (total tackles) and TOL (tackles for loss) than Ole Miss’ defense did, a testament to both schematic success on Vanderbilt’s offense and agility on Vanderbilt’s defense. 

“Ken [Seals] is coachable,” Mason said. “[He] may have taken a couple hits, but what you saw was a fairly clean pocket and him being able to get the ball out.” 

Derek Mason will face off against head coach Mike Leach for the first time since 2013, where he accrued a 3-0 record as Stanford University’s defensive coordinator against Leach’s Washington State University. 

Using notes from his Pac-12 days, Mason noted similarities in Leach’s “Air Raid” offensive scheme: “There’s a lot of carryover, a lot of 10 personnel, 20 personnel; conceptually, probably about sixty to seventy percent of it is the same.” 

Vanderbilt won’t be the only team in Starkville playing without a key playmaker, as Mississippi State All-SEC running back Kylin Hill opted out of the 2020 season on the morning of November 3, 2020. 

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About the Contributor
Basim Naim
Basim Naim, Former Staff Writer
Basim Naim ('24) is from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a staff writer for the Sports section and is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health, and society and minoring in human and organizational development. His hometown and college-town teams — the Alabama Crimson Tide, Mississippi State Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores — have him covered from men’s disc golf to baseball. He can be reached at .
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