As K-State finishes up the fall semester this week with its finals, it seemed like a good time to dish out final grades for K-State’s season. Each day this week I will give my final evaluations for each group and also take a look at how PFF graded them for the season.
Tuesday: Running Back/Wide Receiver
Wednesday: Defensive Line/Offensive Line
Thursday: Defensive Backs/Linebackers
Friday: Special Teams
RUNNING BACK: A
The redshirt freshman from Junction City ran for 451 yards in the regular season and averaged more yards per carry than Vaughn, with 5.6. Another reason for my generous grade to the running backs is that this was the first season since 2016 where K-State had two running backs account for 450+ yards each. In that season Charles Jones ran for 596 yards, while Justin Silmon ran for 464. A freshman Alex Barnes was close to the number that season as well at 442.
Deuce Vaughn: A
Deuce Vaughn finished the season second in rushing yards in the Big 12, where he has finished inside the top five in his first three seasons at K-State. He had career days against Missouri and Texas Tech this season as well, where he crossed the single-game yardage marks of 145 and 170. As mentioned above, he also ran for the most yards in a single season in his career.
The only thing missing from Vaughn’s game this season compared to last year was touchdowns. After finding the endzone 18 times last season, he only scored eight on the ground this year. That wasn’t a Vaughn problem though, K-State’s offense improved their points per drive from 2.69 to 2.79 this season, with a more effective quarterback run game while Adrian Martinez was at quarterback and a more lethal passing attack with Will Howard in.
Vaughn also wasn’t relied upon as much in the receiving game this season, as he finished with the lowest total of his career in receiving yards. Over the last half of the season, Vaughn was more involved in the passing game, seeing an uptick in his receptions and having key plays in the passing game like three consecutive games with receiving touchdowns against Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor, while also having a huge third down 80-yard catch and run against Kansas.
Don’t get it confused, Vaughn was still as good as advertised this season, K-State’s offense just was good enough to not have to over-rely on him.
DJ Giddens: A
It was a strong first season for DJ Giddens as he ran away with the back-up running back spot and likely the starting job after Vaughn exits for the NFL. Giddens did everything expected of him and more likely, which eventually led to comfort for K-State to give him more carries as the season grew on.
Giddens’ best run of the season was likely the 49-yarder he ripped off against West Virginia for a touchdown. Part of a stretch where he scored in three consecutive games for the Wildcats to close out the season. Another key for Giddens was his security with the ball, fumbling just once on the season (which K-State recovered).
Some of Giddens’ success this season can be credited to the offensive line which was great in blocking for the run this season, but Giddens also needs his props for no significant drop off for the snaps he would come in to give Vaughn a rest for.
|Player||Overall Offense||Rushing||Receiving||Fumble||Snap % of 902|
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: B+
The Wildcats had four receivers or tight ends total at least 25 catches this season, after having just two players do so in 2021. Malik Knowles caught over 40 passes for the first time in his career and his 719 receiving yards were the most by a player at K-State since Byron Pringle in 2017.
Phillip Brooks and Kade Warner both also hauled in 40-plus passes in 2022 and joined Knowles in showcasing some playmaking ability at times.
Another note on the K-State passing game is the level it elevated to from the Iowa State game and on for the Wildcats, after going over 200 yards passing just one time in the first five games of the season (234 at Oklahoma), the Wildcats went over that number in every game to end their season until the Big 12 Championship against TCU when they came a yard short at 199.
The finishing stretch of the season also had three games with K-State at or near 300 yards passing. Even though the Wildcats only totaled 199 yards in the Big 12 Championship, two areas of the elevated passing attack were shown.
First, Knowles’ route running and catch he made at the TCU 15-yard line to set up the first touchdown of the game for K-State was magnificent and I am not sure we had seen anything like that in Courtney Messingham’s three seasons in Manhattan.
On that same drive, Ben Sinnott caught a touchdown pass. Sinnott was a huge revelation in the passing game this season. Sinnott had a breakout game against Oklahoma early in the season, catching four balls for 80 yards. But it took until later in the season for his presence to become consistent. His arrival was marked by back-to-back 80-yard receiving games against Baylor and West Virginia, along with three touchdowns. A lot of good to build off of for Collin Klein heading into next season with Sinnott.
The only concerns for K-State’s receivers this season were some of the early season struggles in getting the ball and some of their blocking, but most of that didn’t seem to show up from the Iowa State game on. Additionally, they only used three true receivers most of the season, meaning that next season will feature the unproven at the position. RJ Garcia has the Big 12 Championship to build off of though, as the first touchdown grab of his career was one to remember.
|Player||Overall Offense||Receiving||Drop||Pass Block||Snap % of 902|