Terrell Vaughn once had a hard time getting noticed by college football recruiters. Standing at 5’6″ and facing the dilemma of not having played a full season of high school football during his senior year in Westlake Village, California, Vaughn had trouble getting any kind of recognition.
But now, he’s been recognized as one of the top breakout candidates to watch in the Mountain West Conference for 2023 — with the potential of being the biggest sleeper in the MWC.
Terrell Vaughn’s Unique Skill Set Makes Him Dynamic
To best describe the now-5’7″ Utah State wide receiver: He’s an explosive creator with the ball in his hands. And for comparison, he was compared to Isaiah McKenzie — the same McKenzie who has won over Buffalo Bills fans with his own explosive versatility as a receiver and returner.
But if there was any prime example of why opponents need to take the diminutive yet explosive Vaughn seriously, pull out the film against MWC runner-up Boise State and you’ll immediately find out why Vaughn is not one to be taken lightly.
Here, he busts the double move on the Broncos’ MWC Honorable Mention representative Tyreque Jones that ends in a touchdown. That’s a wideout slipping past a defensive back who stood at 6’2″, 205 pounds.
Vaughn’s day on the blue turf ended with season-highs of eight receptions for 148 yards, an average of 18.5 yards per catch, and a touchdown. And Vaughn did that against the conference’s second-best pass defense from 2022.
There’s more. Vaughn additionally slashed through Air Force on this designed shovel screen. And he breaks loose for the 34-yard scoring scamper against what was the conference’s best defensive unit.
Vaughn went on to earn honorable mention honors in his conference by racking up a total of 1,199 all-purpose yards and scoring seven touchdowns — all accomplished in his FBS debut.
But, it’s not his first time busting out dynamic plays in the collegiate landscape. He had a former NFL coach in his corner not long ago.
Vaughn Became All-American in Hometown Under Former Cincinnati Bengals Assistant
Tracing back to Vaughn’s recruitment, he had a harder time getting recognized due to being limited his senior season — which only saw five games at Westlake High.
Before WHS, he emerged as an All-League performer at nearby Newbury Park High which saw him grab a combined 74 catches and seven touchdowns (four receiving). He also had a brief stop at traditional Ventura power St. Bonaventure High. But again, his high school production wasn’t enough to win over a four-year FBS university at the time.
But it was enough to persuade a former NFL assistant to lure him in.
Ventura College head coach Steve Mooshagian, who once coached a young T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson with the Cincinnati Bengals in the early 2000s, turned Vaughn into a California Community College Football Coaches Association (CCCFCA) All-American. That was due to Vaughn producing an astronomical 149 career catches for 1,715 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Plus in his JUCO career, Vaughn totaled 15 games of hitting 100 yards or more. Utah State saw enough to lure him in.
Now, The Aggies have a potential All-MWC first-teamer on their hands for 2023 if Vaughn delivers similar or larger production than his JUCO days.
The Gauntlet That Awaits Vaughn and Utah State
For Vaughn to make his trek toward a breakout 2023, it begins with a showdown against one of the Big Ten’s top defenses in Iowa on September 2.
The Hawkeyes allowed an average of only 169.5 yards through the air last season, placing them first among teams in that Power Five conference. Iowa additionally welcomes back top ballhawk Cooper DeJean, who snatched five interceptions.
Vaughn matching up against DeJean has the makings of the popcorn-grabbing WR/CB battle in that contest.
After a Week 2 home opener versus FCS opponent Idaho State — which is transitioning to former Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins as head coach — USU goes back on the road to face last season’s top MWC defense Air Force.
But arguably, Vaughn’s biggest tests won’t arrive until the calendar reads October.
That’s when he’ll share the same field with dynamic Colorado State WR Tory Horton (October 7). After that, Vaughn and USU welcome the MWC champs Fresno State and a deep defense on October 14, with top ballhawk Cameron Lockridge (five interceptions) still around. The next week, it’s a road journey to Silicon Valley to take on San Jose State, which saw 10 different Spartans snatch an interception last season and ranked fifth in defense among conference teams.
Arguably the big one, though, is the battle to likely have implications on the race to the MWC title game when Boise State comes down to Logan. And this time, BSU won’t have Jones or even JL Skinner in the secondary as both are off to the NFL.
Vaughn finished with the sixth-most receptions in the conference. But with last year’s leading wideout Brian Cobbs off to the Arizona Cardinals and three of the top five leaders in receptions (Jalen Moreno-Cropper, Nikko Remigio, and Elijah Cooks) also NFL-bound, Vaughn has a great chance to shark his way up – and emerge as the breakout sleeper in the MWC.
Terrell Vaughn Profile
- Height: 5’7″
- Weight: 170
- Number: 0
- Hometown: Oxnard, CA
- High School: St. Bonaventure, Newbury Park, and Westlake
- Years Active: 2022-2023
- Previous School(s): Ventura College
- Draft Eligibility: 2024
Terrell Vaughn’s Career Stats
- Career Receptions: 56
- Career Receiving Yards: 624
- Career Receiving Touchdowns: 5
- Yards Per Catch: 11.1
- Yards Per Game: 48
- Career Kickoff Return Yardage: 503
- Career Kickoff Return Yards Average: 26.5