Auburn RB Gets His Turn At Bat

FAYETTEVILLE -- Auburn running back Brad Lester didn't much like being redshirted his freshman year.

At first, he was seeing a little red.

"Yeah, I was," Lester said. "They decided after the third game last year, because of injuries, they'd decided they would redshirt me. I looked at it as a bad thing. I wanted to play. My dad told me how good it was a sit back and learn."

Apparently, father did know best in this case.

Because ...

Lester, a 5-foot-11, 190 pounder from Lilburn, Ga., gets his first collegiate start against Arkansas at 6 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"I've been looking forward to it all fall practice," Lester said. "Last week, they came and told me was I fixing to start this week. I'm looking forward to coming to Arkansas and starting."

It's a far cry from last year.

"Looking back, I'm glad I did take a redshirt," Lester said. "I mean, it was a great opportunity because I learned a lot last year."

Lester fractured a bone in his left foot and then suffered a pulled his hamstring, and then disappeared off the radar.

"I think it was the third time I had pulled my hamstring," Lester said. "That pretty much did me in. That kind of made the decision easier for them to make.

"It was something I really had to think about, but finally my parents (Phillis and Willie Miller) convinced me to go ahead and take the redshirt.

"Things have worked out fine."

While sidelined, Lester was able to watch and learn from perhaps the nation's top running back tandem in Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown -- both were first-round draft picks last spring -- who led the Tigers to a Southeastern Conference Championship.

"That was a big help, it really was," Lester said. "It showed me you had to block as well as run the ball when you got out there and played. Another thing, they got along so well.

"Me and all the rest of the other running backs get along, too. "Me and (Tigers running back) Kenny (Irons, Auburn's leading rusher with 319 yards) are good friends. We actually, rode home to Georgia last weekend during the off week. We talked about the Arkansas game and how it was going to be our first game away from home.

"It's a good situation, kind of like the way Carnell and Ronnie's was, relationship wise."

In the three games he played last year, Lester didn't really leave a lasting impression.

He had a three carries for 17 yards against The Citadel. And he returned one kickoff against Mississippi State for 32 yards.

Those nagging injuries also forced Lester to miss spring practice.

This season has been much, much different. He's second on the team in rushing with 242 yards on 36 carries, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Also, he is first in all-purpose yardage --he also has 181 yards on kickoff returns --with 466. And, he's Auburn leading scorer with 42 points courtesy of 7 touchdowns.

Lester has helped lead No. 21 Auburn to a 4-1 overall record and 2-0 mark in the SEC.

"He's gotten a lot of touchdowns in the few times he's touched the ball," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. "He's going to be an exciting player for us. He's made some improvement, but again, he's a work in progress as a lot of these guys are.

"He will make some mistakes, but he makes them full-speed. That's what we like about him."

So, what can Lester expect Saturday night?

"Man, I don't know," he said. "I guess it'll be a different feeling starting a game than coming off the bench. I know it's going to be a tough place to get my first start.

"I mean, we know it's going to be loud," he said. "We have heard about all their fan support down there and it's really good. We have a lot of respect for Arkansas as a team. We're are going to just work hard and see what happens.

"I hope we come out on top."

Of course, the Arkansas defense might have something to say about that, with or without Lester in the starting lineup.

"Well, I don't ... the running back ... look, after (Reggie) Bush (Southern Cal running back and Heisman Trophy candidate), a running back's a running back, I mean no disrespect to anybody," said Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. "We're going to try and attack every running back they put on the field. I don't think any one of their running backs are bad. They are all competitive, they're all talented, they're all on scholarship.

"So, I don't think it's that big of a deal. We are just are going to try and attack whichever one of them they put out there.

"I do know they don't have the two first-rounders (Williams and Brown), they had last year."

And last year Auburn didn't have Brad Lester.

"I know they don't know a whole lot about me," Lester said. "I can understand that since they've never seen me play in person. I think I'm getting better game after game. I hope I do well.

"I'm really excited."

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