MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – The K-State offense is lead into the 2021 season by fifth-year quarterback Skylar Thompson but the offense is much deeper than just their quarterback.
The most obvious returning weapon is running back Deuce Vaughn. He’s expected to be one of the top backs in the nation this season, after a stellar freshman campaign.
As a true freshman, Vaughn rushed for 642 yards and totaled 434 receiving yards in only ten games. He added nine touchdowns to those numbers as well.
How often can you expect Vaughn to get the ball?
“We’d like to be in that 15-25 [range.]” Klieman said.
Vaughn’s touches won’t just be in the running game.
“It could be a kick return, it could be a punt return, it’s going to be some balls out of the backfield, it’s going to be some jet sweeps,” Klieman said. “We have to find creative ways to move him around.”
“If they’re giving us opportunities to get in the passing game, he might get more catches than runs,” said running backs coach Brian Anderson.
This is dependent on other K-State players making plays and posing threats on offense to open up more chances for Vaughn, according to Klieman.
“The only way we’re going to be able to give it to him that many times is by other people making big plays,” he said.
What other people? Klieman offered a few names.
“Jacardia Wright is much better right now. Joe Ervin is much better right now. Clyde Price is much better right now. That helps Deuce Vaughn,” Klieman said. “As those three guys continue to improve it allows us to move Deuce around a little bit.”
Klieman had more to say about sophomore running back Joe Ervin.
“He plays the fastest on the team right now. And it’s fun to watch him because he is an electric kid and man does he go a million miles an hour,” Klieman said. “He’s a guy that we can get the ball to and he can do some good things.”
Anderson has been impressed by Ervin too.
“He’s playing really fast right now. It’s fun to watch him. He’s having fun. He has a smile on his face. You talk about a blur, he is hitting it and he’s not slowing down. He had a big run today, and I thought he was going to run out of the practice field,” Anderson said.
The offensive line is deep enough that offensive line coach Conor Riley says there may be more guys than usual who get playing time there.
“If we have the ability to play eight, nine, 10 guys, and guys deserve to play, they’re going play,” Riley said. “We’ve got competition. And that’s something, upfront, that I think we’ve lacked since I’ve been here.”
Fullbacks/ tightends coach Jason Ray spoke on the physicality and closeness of his group.
They’ve been a physical group. In the meeting room, these guys get along really well. We have a lot of good interactions with them talking football, talking defensive structures, and just overall our scheme. Just seeing how close they are has been really good,” Ray said. “But, as far as on the practice field, I think they’re showing to be physical.”
Malik Knowles and Phillip Brooks headline a deep receivers room. Ray said Knowles is more mature than he was a year ago.
“He’s gotten stronger. He’s more explosive. So, as he continues to mature, I think that’s really the main factor in his growth and what he’s been doing just early in camp right now,” Ray said.
Like the offensive line, though, this group is deep. Coach Klieman listed Keenan Garber, Landry Weber, Seth Porter, Kade Warner and Eric Hommel as receivers who have stood out.
“Landry Weber and Seth Porter are really going to be mainstays for us that are really good,” Klieman said.
Chabastian Taylor, who had surgery in December, is expected to be an impact receiver when he returns.
“We’ll start to add more reps to his plate over the next couple of weeks and see how he responds,” Klieman said.