ANN ARBOR, MICH., SEPT. 27 -- Jon Vaughn's celebrity is growing exponentially, barely keeping pace with his 1990 rushing yardage. The mathematics started after Michigan's sophomore tailback gained 201 yards against Notre Dame, then followed that up with 288 last Saturday against UCLA.

Cable News Network came calling here today, heady stuff for someone who barely rated five inches of copy in the team's 1990 media guide. But if nothing else, the steady flow of media questioners has provided an answer for something that's long been on Vaughn's mind.

"I'd watch games on television and during timeouts they'd have all these interviews with players and I always wondered when and where they got them -- now I know," he said.

"I know there are local {media} but I've never seen anything like this. I never expected the attention to be nationwide and I never expected it to be on me."

Vaughn, from Florissant, Mo., was a reserve cornerback when he first came to Michigan. He switched to tailback last season and, on his best day, gained 26 yards rushing. But what a difference a year makes.

He now leads the nation in rushing (244.5 yards per game) and all-purpose yardage and ranks 15th in total offense, and will lead the sixth-ranked Wolverines (1-1) Saturday against Maryland (3-1) here at Michigan Stadium.

During the opening week of two-a-day practices last season, Vaughn spent the morning session with the offense and the afternoon with the defense. Soon after, the Michigan coaches let him choose which side of the field he wanted.

Had he been playing free safety instead of the corner -- a new position for him -- Vaughn says he would have stayed on defense.

At the moment, he is a surprise entry into the early Heisman trophy babble. Hearing such things, Vaughn isn't sure whether to be honored or to run for cover.

"The first time someone mentioned the Heisman I couldn't believe that someone would want to include a 20-year-old kid among the best football players in college," he said.

"Then I started wondering about the standards that come with that. . . . I just wish this hype wouldn't have come so early. What if I don't get 200 yards in a game? Will people start to say that I was just a fluke?

"This is all new to me. I don't go out on the field thinking I have to get 200 yards. I just want the team to win. When we play Michigan State I may only get 50 yards but that 50 could help the team win the game. That would mean more to me than getting 200 yards and losing."

After his epic performance against UCLA -- the second-best rushing total in school history -- Vaughn wouldn't come into a media interview area unless the entire Michigan offensive line accompanied him. Walking on campus today, Vaughn ran into fullback Jarrod Bunch and asked him to join in an interview.

When the senior declined and continued in the opposite direction, Vaughn said that one of his goals for the season is to throw the blocks that help spring Bunch for his first career 100-yard game.

"He deserves it, after blocking for all these years," said Vaughn, an affable sort who says he's only trying to adhere to the teachings of his mother and father, Irene and Britt, a school teacher and personnel manager.

"I remember watching him during the spring and thinking that maybe he'd have a few 100-yard games but I didn't expect this success," said Michigan guard Matt Elliott. "I think Jon's surprised himself with it all too. I'm hoping that he keeps that feeling that he has, that freshness, in his mind."

Less than a week before the season-opener at Notre Dame, the Detroit News tried to handicap the contenders for Michigan's starting tailback position. Reportedly, the early line on Vaughn was, "good speed, good moves but not much running savvy."

Vaughn argues that he spent the first two years of his college career perfecting that savvy.

"All I did," he said, "was study those linemen and how they blocked on each play so that I'd know which ones I could make cutbacks on and which ones I had to just carry the ball where the play was suppose to go. Like if we call a play and Matt Elliott's on the back side, I know he's going to bust his butt to make another block because he knows I'll cut back that way."

Some skeptics contended that it didn't matter whether Vaughn or senior Allen Jefferson or a pulling guard like Elliott won the job: Whoever was going to gain sizable yardage carrying behind the Wolverines line, which averages more than 280 pounds.

Vaughn, who at 5 feet 11, 200 pounds is no giant, is the first to acknowledge that point of view, calling himself "an inspector -- all I do is inspect all the land that those bulldozers clear out."

Because the line is effectively getting him past the line of scrimmage, Vaughn rarely has been forced to take a hard shot. Once into the secondary, his speed and moves have been good enough to allow him to continue on his way.

The only distraction for Vaughn came on his very first carry of the season when, following a mix-up with quarterback Elvis Grbac, he fumbled the ball to Notre Dame. The Irish then marched on for a touchdown.

"I went off the field and it was hard getting my head up," he said. "I just knew that my college career was over right at that moment."

But Vaughn came back strong later that day, even if the Irish did rally for a 28-24 victory, and now there is no question that he is Michigan's main man.

A pre-law major, Vaughn said his role model is Bo Jackson: "He's a man who controls his own destiny and that's where I want to be with my life someday."

Right now however, Vaughn would settle for controlling a little more of his life with the Wolverines.

"Last year I played on the kickoff return team and I really miss it this season," he said. "I asked the coaches if Rocket Ismail can be Notre Dame's return man why couldn't I do the same thing, but they said that would be too much running."