It’s impossible to replace a unique talent like Deuce Vaughn, but this is a solid running back group with the potential to be spectacular. I expect more of a running back by committee situation, but that’s not a bad thing because of the complimentary talent on the roster.
Treshaun Ward is an all-around back with good speed. D.J. Giddens is more of a bruising, between the tackles runner with the power to run over tacklers and the speed to take it the distance once he gets going. Past Ward and Giddens you run into question marks, but that doesn’t mean those guys don’t have answers if called upon. Joe Jackson could be a wild card. Look for him on kick returns early, but if Ward has good speed, Jackson has elite speed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Klein utilize him as a gadget player. He’s the guy that can replace Knowles on jet sweeps.
Overall, I expect either Ward or Giddens to make one of the All-Big 12 teams. It’s not crazy to think they both might make a team. They’re running behind the best run blocking offensive line in the nation and, with Will Howard at quarterback, won’t face a stacked box. Last season this team averaged 208 rushing yards a game. That’s going to be tough to beat, because I expect the passing game to be better. This group, however, could average better than the 5.1 yards per carry the 2022 team put up.
Treshaun Ward - #9 - Sr. - 5’10”, 195
Ward comes over from Florida State. He was the first-game starter for the Noles before going down to injury and losing his starting job to Trey Benson. In his last game with Florida State, he eviscerated Oklahoma to the tune of 81 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 10 carries. Based on recent history, he looks well prepared to play for the Wildcats.
In terms of playing style, Ward is a balanced back. He’s not huge like Giddens, but runs with power and determination. He flashes elite speed around the edge, and has nice acceleration and balance in traffic. If he stays healthy, he’ll be one of the most productive transfers in the nation.
DJ Giddens - #31 - So. - 6’1”, 215
From what I saw last year, Giddens has the talent to start for the vast majority of teams in the nation. As Deuce’s back up, he actually averaged more yards a carry, with is 5.8 yards a carry eclipsing Deuce’s 5.3. He wasn’t utilized much in the passing game, but when called upon, he averaged 12.3 yards on his 8 receptions. That includes his 3 catch, 48 yard performance against Bama.
He’s a tall, long striding back with power. He reminds me a little of former Arkansas Razorback Darren McFadden in terms of running style. I don’t think he has McFadden’s elite top end speed, but McFadden was also a 2-time consensus All-American.
I look for DJ to split carries with Ward, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end games for the ‘Cats. If he plays up to his ability, he should set himself as “the man” in 2024.
Anthony Frias II - #26 - R-So. - 5’10”, 215
Frias, a Ju-Co product out of California, hasn’t had the start to his Wildcat career he envisioned. His single carry last season came against Missouri, and ended in a fumble after two yards. Don’t give up on him just yet though. He still has 4 years of eligibility and is built like a tank. If nothing else, he’ll be tough in garbage time, but could also provide a power back option if anything happens to D.J.
La’James White - #47 - So. - 5’7”, 183
The walk-on transfer from Air Force by way of St. James Academy in Lenexa has yet to register a carry, but that should change in 2023. He put up huge numbers in high school, and gives the ‘Cats a shifty, speed option out of the backfield.
Jordan Schippers - #39 - Sr. - 6’1”, 209
After playing at Western Illinois, Schippers, a Colby, Kansas native retuned home as a walk-on for the Wildcats. He excelled on special teams on 2022, securing himself a spot on the field. He made the most of his one carry last season, toting the rock for 1 yard and a touchdown against Alabama. Look for him to be a terror on special teams again this year.
Joe Jackson - #4 - 6’0”, 190
Listening to the coaches talk, it’s hard for them to control their enthusiasm talking about Jackson. As a senior he rushed for 1,143 yards and 20 touchdowns in 7 games, including a school record breaking 326 yard, 6 touchdown effort. He’s a speed back with solid instincts in the open field. When he finds a weakness in the defense, he hits it hard and knows how to finish runs in the end zone. Look for him as one of the primary kick returns this season, and when he lines up in the backfield, I suggest you pay attention.