It hasn’t been long since Vanderbilt football has had a returning running back to be excited about. From 2014-2017 Ralph Webb was highly productive to the point of rushing for 1,000+ yards three out of four years. This year the running game looks to have another highly productive, if not more exciting back, in Senior Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Last year, Vaughn was part of a three headed backfield with Khari Blasingame and Jamauri Wakefield (known as the LawFirm of Blasingame, Wakefield, and Vaughn, Esq (™)), but became the lead back after six FBS opponents and Vanderbilt fans everywhere screaming at Mason “just give Vaughn the ball!” In his last four full games played, he ran for 724 yards at 9.2 yards per carry.
Since Josh Crawford transferred out as a graduate, the position has four scholarship players with Vaughn as the entrenched RB1.
It’s worth noting that a running back can only be as effective as how well the OL blocks.
The Home Run Hitter
Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a Senior from Nashville. He transferred in from Illinois after his Sophomore season and has been an immediate threat to go take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Early on last year, there was fear that he may look for the big run and not take the yards given to him. He also was not the best pass blocker, but as the season went on, he became the catalyst for the offense.
Vaughn has elite speed where he can run away from SEC defenses. Last year, he had long runs of 65, 63, 43, and 43 against four conference opponents. He compiled the third most yards from the backfield in the SEC with 1124 yards. He was the top back in the conference in yards per carry at 7.9, too. Plus he set a Texas Bowl game record with 243 yards on 13 attempts.
He forewent the NFL to return to Vanderbilt. If you ask me, that speaks to someone who is committed to the quality education Vanderbilt has to offer (any recruits reading this?). In reality, it speaks to the potential he sees in the 2019 campaign. The fact that he came back is best summed up by a quote from former Vice President and current Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, “This is a big F****** deal.”
The Trusted Spell Back
Jamauri Wakefield, the 6’1” 210 Junior, has been a steady component for the Vandy backfield. He was the third back last year averaging just under eight carries a game, but got 4.5 yards out of each, on average. His size makes him a solid third down back to spell Vaughn. Otherwise, Wakefield will be most effective in short yardage situations.
Break in Case of Injury
Redshirt Freshman Ja’Veon Marlow saw only five carries last year for 46 yards largely because he was behind the LawFirm(™). However, this year his carries should increase, especially if an injury occurs ahead of him in the depth chart, or in garbage time. He is 5’11”, 190lbs so he isn’t a bruiser, but he also isn’t a break away threat, either. The former 3-star recruit can be an effective and efficient back but isn’t the spark plug this year’s offense needs.
Keyon Brooks, a true Freshman, was part of the 2019 recruiting class. He was a composite 3-star and the 70th RB in his class. He’s 6-1, 195lbs out of Georgia. He doesn’t project to play this year as a suspected red shirt. He was previously committed to Arkansas State.
Just Happy to Be Here
Mitchell Pryor, the 6’2” 210lb Sophomore is a walk on out of Connecticut. He’s a big kid and probably a great contributor on the practice squad and in the classroom.