Freshman Ready for Expanded Role If Needed

Running back Mike Dyer, who is averaging better than six yards per carry as he heads into his third college game, could be a key player on Saturday night for the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--With Mario Fannin bothered by a shoulder problem and Onterio McCalebb having footing issues in Auburn's victory over Mississippi State, freshman Michael Dyer was thrust into the spotlight at tailback and he might not be exiting stage left or stage right anytime soon.

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said he likes how young Dyer is developing.

"His opening two games he has done exactly what we have asked him to do," Chizik said. "One of the things I was proud of Mike about is we counted on him at the end of the game when the game was on the line to get first downs, to run tough, to not take negative yardage, but more importantly protect the ball. When we had to do those things we went with him and he did it."

Because of that performance vs. Mississippi State, look for more prime-time action from the freshman. "I think from a comfort level, from a coaching perspective, that helps," Chizik said. "Certainly I would think that he is feeling more comfortable being able to do that."

The tailback's position coach, Curtis Luper, noted he is seeing progress from the freshman while Dyer said he is ready to take on an expanded role in the Auburn offense if needed as the Tigers prepare for a non-conference tester on Saturday as Clemson comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a 6 p.m. CDT contest.

With the Tigers nursing a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter on Thursday night in their SEC opener vs. Mississippi State, Auburn took possession of the football at its 23 with six minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the game at Davis Wade Stadium.

On first down the freshman got the call, running for 16 yards before being knocked out of bounds by the Bulldogs. With an 11-yard run on the next play Dyer had helped change the field position with Auburn at the 50 with first and 10 to go.

Despite three more runs by Dyer on the possession, the Tigers stalled on a third and one play at the MSU 17-yard line. Auburn's drive ended when quarterback Cameron Newton, the team's leading rusher like he was in the opener, was caught for a three-yard loss.

"I was just doing what I was asked to do," Dyer said. "I was just trying to do my job in the game. I kind of went in late just to run the clock down and take care of the ball and just to get some first downs."

Michael Dyer has rushed for 143 yards and one touchdown through two games.

Dyer noted that it was important for him to show he is ready for prime time action for the Tigers. "It was really kind of a test to see how I respond to a big game, an away game, to see if I could still remain focused," he said.

The all-time leading rusher in Arkansas high school football history at Little Rock Christian Academy, Dyer carried the ball nine times for 48 yards in Auburn's victory over Mississippi State. He got more action on opening night vs. Arkansas State when he carried the football 14 times for 95 yards in his college debut.

Luper, Auburn's second year running backs coach, predicts that Dyer will "play more" as the season progresses, but how much more is a still to be determined question based on how Dyer performs and how Fannin and McCalebb play.

The next chance for the freshman tailback to carry the football is this Saturday as the Tigers take on Clemson at soldout Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn brings a 2-0 record into the game while Clemson is also 2-0.

Asked if he is expecting to play a bigger role in the offense this week, Dyer said, "I am just one of those guys that is just going to do what I am asked to do when it is my time to actually go out there and perform. When it comes time to perform I am just going to do what I can to help the team out. If I get less carries as long as we win and have a good season, I am fine with that."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories