AU Running Success A Group Effort

Auburn's running game is in high gear at the moment thanks to more than just quarterback Cameron Newton.

Auburn, Ala.--When some so-called experts around the country talk about the 2010 Auburn Tigers they use the term "one-man team" to describe Gene Chizik's team with Cameron Newton at the center of the discussion on offense.

There is no question that Newton deserves praise for his play because he is clearly the top player not only in the SEC but the nation through 11 games, however, people should be wary of sleeping on the rest of this Auburn offense.

Ranked eighth in the nation in rushing at 111.91 yards per game with 17 touchdowns, Newton has been a force for the Tigers. Throw in 2,038 yards passing and 21 touchdowns along with a receiving touchdown and you have the most dominant player in college football, but that's not all the Tigers have going on offense these days.

In SEC games this season Auburn is averaging a whopping 323.3 rushing yards per game and has 23 rushing touchdowns. The number two team in the league is Ole Miss, averaging just 194.5 yards per game. Auburn's 2,263 yards in seven SEC games is more than 1,000 more yards than the Rebels have this season.

What is even more impressive is when you take a closer look at the rushing numbers for the Tigers. Called out by Chizik following a close win over Clemson for not being physical enough, Auburn has responded in a big way. Taking out games against ULM and Chattanooga when it was obvious the Tigers weren't as concerned with running the ball, they are averaging a whopping 345.5 yards in the last six SEC games.

While Newton is a big part of that, he's far from the only component in the running game.

Averaging 149.3 yards per game in SEC play, Newton leads the league by 33 yards a game over Marcus Lattimore and would be fifth in the team rushing rankings by himself. It's not all him though as true freshman Michael Dyer is churning out 85.3 yards in conference play with sophomore Onterio McCalebb adding the big play threat on the perimeter.

To put it into perspective, if you took Newton's rushing yards out of the stats in SEC games the Tigers would still average 174 yards per game in conference action. That would be fourth in the league ahead of schools such as Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. It's those kinds of numbers and the threat that all three possess that Auburn running back coach Curtis Luper said makes the Tigers so dangerous at the moment.

"I think the three of them really pose problems for the opposing defense," Luper said. "Mike is an inside runner and he can get to the perimeter too as you saw last Saturday. Onterio and Cam have the read-option game going on. It's tough. You can sit in the box and try to stop Cam and Onterio can take it 70 on you in a heartbeat."

While Auburn's offensive production was good last season in the running game, the addition of Newton has added a new presence and a new dimension said Luper and the entire offense is benefiting.

"It poses numerous problems for defenses and opens up the passing game," Luper said. "The play-action passes are there for us as you saw last Saturday. It makes our offense a totally different offense. It's essentially the same offense as last year with that one exception, we have a quarterback that can run."

With Newton at the center of attention for defenses, Dyer's production has come at just the right time and Auburn's plan is working out perfectly. Because so many freshmen hit a wall in their first season, the Tigers decided to take things slowly with Dyer in 2010 and build up to the finish gradually to help him stay as fresh as possible throughout the season.

Carrying the ball 137 times for 859 yards and five touchdowns this season, Dyer passed Bo Jackson to become the all-time leader in rushing yards by a freshman in Auburn history. Luper said that was done despite not wearing him out early in the year.

"It was our intent to start off slow with him and kind of work him into the offense slowly so that the last four or five games of the season, or six, we could have him at full strength and he could carry it 20 or 25 times down the stretch," Luper said of Dyer. "We didn't want to do that early. We wanted him to do it down the stretch."

Auburn will be looking for its seventh consecutive 300-plus yard rushing game in SEC play next Friday when the Tigers take on Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. and can be seen on CBS.


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