• Name: Ke’Shawn Vaughn
• Height/Weight: 5-10, 207
• Position: Running back
• Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
• High School: Pearl-Cohn
• Statistics: Rushed for 2,031 yards and 33 touchdowns on 162 carries (12.5 yards per carry) as a senior at Pearl-Cohn High School, where he was named the Tennessee Class AA Mr. Football Back of the Year.
• Assets: A refuse-to-go-down running back with outstanding feet/footwork. A power back in a smaller package. Outstanding lower-body strength with running-back instincts and vision to match. An economical runner who makes every move, every stride count.
Provides a full rack of intangibles including balance, ball protection, the ability to take a hit, an effective use of a stiff arm, and a resourcefulness that overcomes physical shortcomings.
Plays a tough man’s game. Carries a bit of a nasty streak onto the field with a first-man-off-the-bus mentality. A blue-collar runner who can set a physical tone to a game, but can also craftily weave his way through traffic when there doesn’t appear to be a path available.
• Room for improvement: Pedestrian 40-yard dash speed. Clocked in the 4.6 range. Unlikely to run away from defensive skill players on the next level (although he just might run them over instead).
• Schools of interest: Notre Dame; Big 12: West Virginia; Pac 12: Cal; SEC: Tennessee, Vanderbilt; Big Ten: Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin; ACC: Duke, Louisville, North Carolina.
• The latest line: Vaughn recently named a top five of Notre Dame, Illinois, Purdue, Vanderbilt and West Virginia after including Louisville as one of his top choices a couple of weeks earlier.
When offered a scholarship by West Virginia earlier this month, Vaughn said: “West Virginia has always been a school I wanted to go to. That’s a school I could see myself at. I can see myself in their offense. I love their spread offense.”
Vaughn is expected to visit West Virginia on Jan. 23 and Illinois on Jan. 30.
This weekend, he’ll be in South Bend for his official visit to Notre Dame.
“A few weeks ago was the first time that I talked with (running backs) Coach (Tony) Alford,” said Vaughn to Scout’s Anna Hickey.
“The first time was just getting to know each other, and then the second time we talked on the phone, he offered me. He’s a really cool coach, and he keeps it real.”
• ND’s 2015 tight end target number: Two
• ND’s 2015 running back recruiting: The Irish have a verbal commitment from 6-foot-3, 215-pound Josh Adams (Warrington, Pa.), and would like to add another. The list has diminished in recent weeks following the verbal commitment of Ronald Jones II (McKinney, Texas) to USC.
The four remaining prospects at the present time are Soso Jamabo (Plano, Texas), Jordan Cronkrite (Palmetto Bay, Fla.), Dexter Williams (Winter Haven, Fla.) and Vaughn. The list undoubtedly will expand if the Irish can’t land one of the four.
• ND’s 2015 running back depth chart: It’s a threadbare depth chart heading into the spring following the graduation of Cam McDaniel. That leaves the position to junior Tarean Folston and red-shirt sophomore Greg Bryant. In a pinch, former running back Amir Carlisle could move back to the backfield with Josh Adams arriving this summer. Z receiver C.J. Prosise has proved to be an effective runner as well.
• Summary: A relatively mid-range list of suitors with the exception of newly-crowned national champion Ohio State have expressed an interest in the fireplug-type back, which isn’t a surprise when you consider his speed times.
But this is a running back whose game grows on you the more you watch him play. He knows the game and understands the best way he can be successful running the football. He’s not a speedster but he is a nimble-footed player who always seems to know the best and most economical way to get from point A to point B. If that path doesn’t exist, he will use his powerful lower body to extend the run and blast through would-be tacklers. They’re welcome to come along for the ride.
Let’s put it this way: Vaughn may not accumulate a large number of explosive runs, but on short-yardage plays or when it’s time to salt the game away by possessing the football or on the goal line, this is the guy you give the football. He’s also nimble-footed enough ala Tarean Folston to jump-cut his way through traffic. That’s a rare combination.
It’s also rare that you notice how well a high school running back protects the football. That’s usually something they’re forced to learn on the next level. Either he’s been coached really well in that area or the kid has a good feel for what’s important for him to succeed.
The Irish need a second running back in this class. Vaughn would be an excellent complement to the longer, rangier Josh Adams. He brings the fundamental skillset to the running back position. He adds positives and eliminates negatives. If the Irish can land a player of this caliber at this stage of the game, consider it to be a great save.