Versatile running backs shine in the Big 12, nationwide


Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn (22) passes Iowa State defensive back Anthony Johnson Jr. (26) for a first try in the first quarter of a football game of the NCAA on Saturday, October 16, 2021, in Manhattan, Kan.  (AP Photo / Colin E. Braley)

Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn (22) passes Iowa State defensive back Anthony Johnson Jr. (26) for a first try in the first quarter of a football game of the NCAA on Saturday, October 16, 2021 in Manhattan, Kansas (AP Photo / Colin E. Braley)

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Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn has a simple football philosophy.

“You have to make your own pieces,” he said.

Vaughn has done a lot – and in different ways – over the past two years, and he’s got a lot of Big 12 company this season.

Seven conference players are in the top 26 spots on the NCAA’s versatile yardage chart, three more than the next closest conference. Only one Big 12 player has made the top 40 in each of the previous two years.

The conference has one of its best collections of versatile running backs. Texas Bijan Robinson leads the way, approaching 1,000 rushing yards, has over 200 receptions and is third nationally with 161.6 yards per game.

Breece Hall of Iowa State, 10th in the nation with 143.9 yards per game, played four straight 100-yard rushing games before being held at 70 by Oklahoma State last week. In the Cyclones’ victory over the Cowboys, he gained 30 yards on a catch-and-run before scoring the go-ahead touchdown.

“When he’s at his best, it’s hard to find a better player in terms of running back position,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said. “When Breece plays well, we seem to have a great fluidity in our attack.

Perhaps the greatest handyman in the league is Baylor’s Trestan Ebner, who averages 140.4 yards per game as a running back, wide receiver, and kick-and-kick return man. clearance. He repelled a kick for a touchdown and leads the Big 12 with his punt return average of 9.8 yards.

Jaylen Warren of Oklahoma State and Zach Evans of TCU have also proven their worth as runners and receivers.

And then there’s Vaughn, who in two seasons has established himself as one of the best all-rounders in the country.

This year, Vaughn has 897 scrum yards (595 rushing, 302 receiving) and 10 touchdowns. In his 17-game total career, he’s won at least 100 scrum yards in 12 of them (including all seven this season). He ranks fourth nationally among active players in career yards per game (124.59).

Vaughn’s reliability was especially important as the Wildcats faced quarterback injury issues.

“People always know where Deuce is,” said K-State coach Chris Klieman, “which opens up a lot of players in the passing game.”

Vaughn is the Wildcats’ first wide receiver, and first among 12 great backers with 30 catches and 40 targets. According to Pro Football Focus, Vaughn leads K-State with 10 forced missed tackles after the capture.

As a running back, he averages 4.9 yards per carry and is tied with Robinson for the Big 12 lead with 32 scrum plays of at least 10 yards.

“I think he’s an underrated running back,” Klieman said. “And what I mean by that is everyone knows their ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make people miss and have game problems there, but just in our attack. two backs, behind a back or a set to a back… he’s a great ball carrier with great vision and good balance and he sees things so well.

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