Deuce Vaughn may not yet be a household name among Kansas State football fans, but he certainly has caught linebacker Justin Hughes' attention.
So much so that when Hughes and Elijah Sullivan, the Wildcats' other starting linebacker, spot him in the offensive huddle during practice they immediately sound the alarm.
"When we see him in the backfield, I know me and Elijah talk to each other and say 'Deuce, Deuce, Deuce,' " Hughes said of Vaughn, a shifty 5-foot-5, 168-pound true freshman running back from Round Rock, Texas. "We point him out every time he's on the field because we know he's getting the ball or they're setting him up to get the ball, so we just try to contain him and let the (defensive) ends know he's in so they can keep contain and keep him in the box."
Hughes is not the only one to take notice of Vaughn, who found himself sharing the No. 2 running back spot with senior Tyler Burns when K-State released its two-deep Monday ahead of Saturday's 11 a.m. season opener against Arkansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"He's got a great skill set," head coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday during his game week virtual news conference. "He can catch the ball extremely well (and) he's got great vision.
"He can run inside, he can run outside, and we're excited about seeing what he can do, as well as a number of younger players."
Klieman predicted that seniors Harry Trotter and Burns would get most of the touches, especially early on, but said he remains committed to a running back by committee approach. Still, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Vaughn leapfrogged freshman Jacardia Wright, who saw limited action last season while preserving his redshirt year.
Joe Ervin, another promising redshirt freshman, apparently opted out of the season because of the coronavirus pandemic as he was not listed on this week's roster.
Trotter was the top returning running back, rushing for 263 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last year, while Burns had 148 yards and two scores. Wright appeared in three games, gaining 122 yards with one TD.
Klieman said that Wright continues to work with the top tier of backs after missing some time during preseason camp.
But Vaughn has established himself not only with his physical skills, but also by the way he carries himself.
"I think his preparation has set him apart a lot of the time," said Trotter. "I know back in the summer (he was) diving into the playbook and stuff.
"He seemed pretty knowledgeable about the offense and he had a great camp."
Vaughn came in with solid credentials after accumulating 5,472 career all-purpose yards at Cedar Ridge High School in Texas. As a senior, he broke the school single-season rushing record with 1,940 yards, including a single-game mark of 406.
But that's not all.
"I’m excited about how mature Deuce has been throughout this process, and the game's not too big for him," Klieman said. "He's excited about the challenge."
Hughes called him the most mature freshman he has seen, and Trotter has been impressed with Vaughn's self-confidence.
But the bottom line is he's a legitimate threat.
"His speed (stands out)," Hughes said. "He's a matchup nightmare in the passing game.
"In the open field, he's probably going to make you miss most of the time."
Arkansas State game moved to 11 a.m.
The Big 12 announced Tuesday night that K-State’s season opener against Arkansas State, originally scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. start, has been moved up to 11 a.m. and will be televised nationally on Fox.
The change came after the game between Louisiana Tech and Baylor, originally slated for the 11 a.m. kickoff on Fox, was postponed, opening the slot up for the K-State game.