All-American running back Deuce Vaughn is a luxury for Kansas State. The third-year running back has 271 rushing yards through the Wildcats’ first two games and three rushing touchdowns and since the 2021 season, Vaughn has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in eight straight games. He also has at least one rushing touchdown in all eight games.
On Saturday against Mizzou, Vaughn rushed through a Tigers defense for 145 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry while pacing K-State’s offense well into the fourth quarter.
However, running back depth is never satisfactory for many teams. In an unforgiving sport, running back is one of the most unforgiving positions. Defenders routinely hit and manhandle running backs more than many other players on the field, and this often leads to nagging and frustrating injuries that often last for weeks.
That’s why developing a secondary and potentially third running back is important for Kansas State. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is a talented running back, but he’s not looking to run the field as much as he did during his Nebraska career before transferring to K-State for his final season of eligibility in 2022. Sophomore running back DJ Giddens he has carried the ball eight times for 86 yards in K-State’s first two games of the season, and he also has two touchdowns, including a long touchdown run of nearly 30 yards against Missouri.
Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman called Giddens the “clear number two” running back behind Vaughn on the depth chart. But his eight carries in two games mean Vaughn has been asked to carry the ball 42 times in Kansas State’s first two games despite outscoring South Dakota and Missouri by a combined 74-12.
Against South Dakota, Giddens got most of his chance in the fourth quarter when the game was out of his league, and in Week 2, Klieman said his staff decided to go with Vaughn because of the wet conditions at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium due to heavy rain. the game.
“When a guy is bundled up and plays all the time and he’s not sitting on the sidelines soaking wet,” Klieman said. “You’re going to give it to the guy who’s your type to begin with. i feel bad for anthony [Frias] (who had a fumble against Mizzou). He sat cold and wet the entire game and then didn’t hold on to the ball. That’s not Antony. Anthony is going to be fine. He is punishing himself too much and we believe in him a lot.
“I didn’t want to do the same with DJ. Deuce is cool, he’s hot, and he’s carrying the load. He’s a pretty good soccer player and the DJ made an impact; he had a great run for us.”
Missouri’s plan going into the game was to have a diverse running game that featured Giddens more. But after building a 20-6 lead and soggy conditions, Kansas State stuck with Vaughn, until the fourth quarter, before allowing Giddens to come into the game for carries when the game was all but decided.
“It was soaking wet and a downpour,” Klieman said. “It was let’s not give the ball, let’s give it to Deuce. Also, with the amount of pressure we were seeing, we didn’t want to take any shots. We didn’t want to accept a lot of negative plays.”
However, a more diverse running game could also help the elusive and agile Vaughn find more success on each carry, despite potentially receiving fewer trades. Martinez is tall, he has long strides, and he has long strides to help him gain big stretches of yardage on short strides. Giddens is more powerful than Vaughn and has an impressive burst, which helps him get to the second level of the defense.
“If you have Adrian Martinez back there and me and DJ Giddens and the offensive line that he puts into the world that they make, it’s real,” Vaughn said. “It’s almost like choosing your poison. You throw in some read option stuff to really guess the defense on which one they want to take off and you have someone like 9AM (Martinez’s nickname) behind me behind that line who will come in handy for the entire season. ”
The clashing styles of Vaughn and Giddens, in particular, have the potential to be difficult for opponents to stop.
“We go hand in hand,” Vaughn said. “DJ, you see the power that he runs with, the pop that he has. The frame and body that he has to be able to get hit and grab five or six more yards and have that compiled with myself is a yin and a yang.”
The Wildcats have had a lot of success with Vaughn running the ball in eight straight games, and they’ll likely continue to have success putting the ball in his belly and telling him to run. But K-State likely needs a secondary running back to emerge as the second continues to help spell Vaughn. Giddens can, and should, be that guy.
“I told him the season he’s going to have this year is going to be great,” Vaughn said of the conversations with Giddens. “And we’re going to need it every week. Do not change, be the same person you have always been, take care of your business during the week and when your name is called, run strong.