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Chris Klieman thinks moving this K-State player to running back will help Deuce Vaughn

Kansas State fullback Jax Dineen (29) is forced out of bounds by Oklahoma State cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas State fullback Jax Dineen (29) is forced out of bounds by Oklahoma State cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) AP

For the first time since he arrived on campus, Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn wasn’t the center of attention at his position when the Wildcats began spring football practice on Tuesday.

All eyes were on Jax Dineen instead.

K-State players were naturally curious to see how the 5-foot-10 and 253-pound senior ran the ball, because it was his first day lining up entirely at running back instead of his traditional role at fullback.

“We have made the wholesale change to put Jax Dineen at running back and I think that’s probably a big thing,” K-State football coach Chris Klieman said. “He will play some fullback, but if you guys noticed in the bowl game he played some true running back for us.

“Let’s see how far we can take it with Jax, because he gives us a different dimension at running back, for sure, running the football. He has got good hands and he is able to protect.”

He has only carried the ball prominently in one practice, but his teammates seem eager for more.

“Jax might be the strongest running back in college football,” K-State defensive tackle Eli Huggins said. “He’s a bowling ball, but he can move. He’s super athletic, so it will be exciting to see what he can do playing a little bit different positions. Every time he’s got the ball you can see that he’s got the ability to really get out move, he’s just kind of been limited playing fullback.”

Switching Dineen to a new position in the backfield is an interesting plan.

K-State’s two primary backup runners from a season ago (Joe Ervin and Jacardia Wright) both transferred before the Texas Bowl, leaving a major hole on the roster behind Vaughn, the team’s All-American running back.

Klieman was unable to bring in a new scholarship running back to play behind Vaughn during the offseason, which leaves K-State turning mostly to unproven runners Jordan Schippers and DJ Giddens this spring. Both players have upside, but K-State coaches decided they needed more options.

Enter Dineen. The Lawrence native has been known more for his punishing blocks than his impressive stats (20 rushing yards on five carries and 118 receiving yards on 14 catches) during the first three years of his college career, but he should provide a noticeable change of pace from Vaughn when he is on the field.

Vaughn, at 5-foot-6 and 176 pounds, is as fast and elusive as they come. Dineen is more of a bruiser.

Perhaps he will thrive if he is given more opportunities.

“He is quicker than you might think for how stocky he is,” K-State receiver Kade Warner said. “It’s cool when you get him on the edge and you see him running and you see the defensive backs come up, they are like, ‘I don’t want to tackle that human.’”

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