Running Back Depth Chart - Week 1
Deuce Vaughn - 5’6”, 176 - Jr/2L - Round Rock, TX
Deuce Vaughn - 2021
Kansas State hasn’t had a legitimate Heisman hopeful since current offensive coordinator Collin Klein was robbed in 2012. Deuce isn’t the Heisman favorite, but he is in the conversation. Despite his diminutive size (or maybe because of his diminutive size?), he is the most dynamic running back in the nation. Pay close attention to my words in the previous sentence. Notice how I called him a “running back” and not an “all purpose back” or “flex back” or whatever else people have attempted to call Deuce to make them more comfortable with a 5’6”, 176 monster at running back. That’s because I watch football and understand that when a player stands next to the quarterback and receives 235 hand-offs (a guess a few of those carries are pitches), he’s a running back.
Deuce is also a great receiver out of the back field, and can even slide into the slot and give defensive backs fits, but first and foremost, he’s a guy that takes hand offs, runs between the tackles, and grinds out yards. This makes some folks in the national media uncomfortable. They want to say Bjjan Robinson (no doubt the second best running back in the Big 12, which is nothing to sneeze at) is the best running back in the Big 12 because Deuce isn’t technically a running back.
Don’t let them gaslight you folks.
You know what you see with your own two eyes every Saturday. You see the most explosive runner, in and out of cuts, since Barry Sanders (and I don’t make that comparison lightly). Deuce has the rare ability to make other top level athletes look like they should be playing rec league ball. When he gets a defender in the open field, you can see the fear in their eyes. He’s one of those backs that is worried about making the second defender miss, because he knows the first defender is going to miss. If they do manage to get a hand on him, he has no trouble powering through arm tackles with his low center of gravity and tree trunk legs. He’s not some sort of gadget player Kansas State has to work into their scheme. Any play Texas calls for Robinson, Deuce is capable of running, and running better. Again, this is no disrespect to Bijan — he’s a great football player and will make a ton of money in the NFL — because there is no shame in being not quite as good as Deuce Vaughn.
Position Security: Supermax prison on the moon secure.
DJ Giddens - 6’1”, 212 - R. Fr - Junction City, KS
I don’t have access to a picture of DJ from either USA Today or Getty because no one knows who DJ is outside of Kansas State fans and folks living in Riley and Geary counties and the surrounding areas. He’s one of those players from Kansas that recruiting services either don’t bother to evaluate or say “yeah, he looks good against Kansas competition, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
Coach Klieman was happy to scoop up a kid coming off a 1,255 yard, 30 touchdown senior season at Junction City High School as a preferred walk-on. That’s basically stealing in recruiting terms. Giddens is a big, fast dude who can squat everything in the weight room. He checks all the boxes physically, but what I like most about his highlight package is his vision as a running back. I’ve watched too many highlights where a physically gifted running back bounces everything outside and outruns their physically inferior competition. Those are the guys that struggle with the transition to the next level. DJ shows patience and vision, and when he sees an opening, he doesn’t hesitate to put the hammer down. Yes, on occasion you do see him bounce a run, but more often than not, he stays with the play and his blockers.
DJ spent last season preparing for this role, and I’m going to guess he had little something to do with a few of the other backs leaving the program. From what I’ve heard, unless the other backs made big strides, Giddens was going to take this spot, regardless of who else was on the roster. That’s how impressive he’s been in practice. You never know until you see it on the field, and we’ll get the opportunity to see what he can do on Saturday vs South Dakota.
Position Security: More secure than you might think.
Anthony Frias II - So (Ju/Co) - Turlock, CA - At 5’10, 210, Frias is a bigger back with some real power. The coaching staff picked him up late out of junior college to bring more competition to the running back room. I expect to see him on the field in some capacity this season. I expect him to fight it out with Giddens for top billing in 2023 if Deuce decides to leave early.
La’James White - Fr. - Lenexa, KS - Like Giddens, White is found-money for the coaching staff. He was offered a preferred walk-on spot by Kansas State as a recruit, decided to take a scholarship at Air Force, redshirted, and then transferred to Kansas State. He’s a tough runner and a solid all-around athlete that will carve a role with the Wildcats before his career is over. I don’t expect to see him much this season unless things go wrong.
Jordan Schippers - Jr. - Colby, KS - Yet another fortunate addition at running back. Schippers started his career at Western Illinois University, and saw playing time as a freshman, including an 85 yard game vs powerhouse Youngstown State. He transferred back home, sat out a year, and picked up a few carries in the traditional everybody plays game against Kansas and toted the rock three times against LSU. He’s not a guy that’s going to make the top of the depth chart, but he’s they type of athlete that pays dividends on special teams.
Funny what having an all world running back at the top of the roster does to your established depth. Deuce has cleared out the running back room because he’s that good. He’s been remarkably durable, and as long as that remains the case, the Wildcats have one of the best running back rooms in the nation, simply because Deuce is leading the way.
If Deuce goes down, things change substantially, but keep in mind that James Gilbert averaged 5.2 yards a game in 2019 as a late arriving transfer from Ball State. This offensive line blows open holes, and Giddens, Frias and company have the talent to run through them. This team would still be good in the run game without Deuce, but I in no way want to see this hypothesis put to the test.