Ke'Shawn Vaughn is Quietly Finishing Strong

Photo: © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A draft class that has been lauded for its star power and positional strength in multiple spots. Running back is arguably at the top of the list of the positions that are mentioned first as the key cogs of the 2020 class.

The usual names are often heard at the top, but there are a few who have been lost in the shuffle. Vanderbilt senior rusher Ke'Shawn Vaughn is the latest victim of a loaded class. Up to 703 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 131 carries, the Commodores star is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

As one of five siblings (two brothers and two sisters), Vaughn grew up in a large household under the guidance of his mother, Tameka Dennis, and father, Keith Vaughn. Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Vaughn fell in love with the game at the start when he was only five-years old on the local little league team.

A two-sport athlete (track) at Pearl-Cohn High School, he orchestrated one of the most prolific careers in school history. Immediately being placed on the varsity team as a freshman, he entered the program as a second string rusher, but quickly overtook the starter, but a broken ankle during the final game of the season sidelined him.

After a fully healthy sophomore campaign, the buzz began to build about Vaughn leading up to his junior season where his stock went through the roof. He finished his third year surpassing the 2,000 yard mark and 30 touchdowns, which helped him become an all-state selection. His ascension was far from over though -- capping off his illustrious career with 2,646 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior.

The 2014 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year went on to set over 10 school records. Ranked as the top prospect in the state, he decided to cross the state lines and sign with Illinois. There, he went on to start in five of the 11 games that he appeared in as a true freshman,. Vaughn led the team in multiple categories including attempts (157), rushing yards (723) and touchdowns (6).

After lots of hype entering his sophomore season, it wouldn’t be matched as his stats declined - finishing with three starts in 11 games and 301 rushing yards on 60 carries. The slump resulted in him transferring elsewhere.

After only playing in 22 games for the Fighting Illini, he wound up transferring back home to Vanderbilt. After satisfying transfer rules, Vaughn flashed the talent again in his first season with the Commodores. Back in his home state, he rushed for 1,244 yards on 157 carries - the second-best single season total in program history. He also totaled 12 touchdowns. 

Where He Wins (+)

Zone runs are his strength and these types of blocking schemes cater to his skill set perfectly. Vaughn weaves his way through traffic successfully. Clearly a space runner that is decisive with picking his areas to exploit, which is why zone runs are effective for him. Outside stretch runs are his most productive because of the area space. He has the quick acceleration needed in order to burst through fast appearing holes, but quickly closing areas.

When breaking into the open field, Vaughn is able to flip a switch and turn on the turbo level of speed. He has a special ability of being able to creep towards the line of scrimmage or on stretch runs then instantly plant his foot into the ground violently to reach top speeds. Possessing quick burst and acceleration skills helps him swiftly past through the first level with ease. He's shown to be very elusive in space and has a repetitive toe tap move that’s effective when faced with one-on-one matchups.  

Vaughn has frequently shown reliable hands and appears to be a natural catcher that can reel passes in with his hands away from his body. He isn’t a do it all threat that offenses can build a passing tree around, but he is consistent enough to use as the final option on passing concepts or slip screens out of the backfield. There are plenty of explosive play examples while executing these various concepts.  

Where He Must Improve (-)

Vaughn is keen with identifying where to fit in protections, but at the contact point he has little sense of what to do. He will often stand his ground and attempt to take incoming blitzers head on, but with a lack of sand in his pants, he often gets flatten or knocked far backward. Reading defenders and learning which techniques to execute in certain situations will have to be developed to become more well-rounded on late or passing down situations. 

He hasn’t shown to have the baseline power and solidity in order to consistently brush off contact. Vaughn sometimes goes down in an instant after first contact and defenders are too easily able to bring him down. Thin lower half is attributed to that and there will need to be muscle built up in that area in order to improve upon this trait. 

There's a bad habit of leaving the ball exposed often on his forearm. Usually at risk of defenders being able to knock the ball out of his hands as a result. He is a heavy left hand ball carrier. Even when the pursuit is bearing down on him along the sideline, there’s no sense of alertness or effort to switch the ball into the same hand as the sideline in order to shield it away from oncoming tacklers.

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Jordan Reid is a Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Gaining experience from various lenses of the game, he has previously served as a college quarterback, position coach, and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina Central University. He now serves as a Color Commentator for FloSports, covering both high school and college football games around the country while also being the host of The Reid Option Podcast.