Running Game A Question As Bowl Prep Begins

Auburn's running game will need a boost with Michael Dyer suspended indefinitely.

Auburn, Ala.—With sophomore running back Michael Dyer and his back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons now suspended indefinitely from the Auburn football program, the Tigers will turn to junior Onterio McCalebb and true freshman Tre Mason to pick up the slack against Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Atlanta.

Leading the team and second in the SEC with 1,242 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns this season, Dyer's absence will be a significant one for an offense that struggled to consistently move the football in 2011. With a quarterback rotation of Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and true freshman Kiehl Frazier all playing at different times this year, the Tigers have been inconsistent in the passing game and that has put pressure on the rebuilt offensive line and the running game.

Averaging 174.8 rushing yards in 12 games, Auburn will now have to rely on McCalebb to be more productive. Running for 532 yards on just 102 carries with four touchdowns this year, the junior has 1,907 yards and 19 touchdowns for his career in 37 games. Despite being the second and sometimes third option throughout his three seasons in college, he is 16th in school history in career rushing and just over 300 yards away from the Top 10.

Tre Mason

Mostly a special teams player this year for the Tigers, Mason has just 19 carries for 97 yards, but has shown the ability to make plays when given the opportunity. One of the top kickoff men in the country this year, Mason has 24 attempts for 633 yards and a touchdown to show his big-play ability.

Kiehl Frazier runs the football for the Tigers.

The wild card in the running game for Auburn is Frazier. Third on the team with 60 carries for 272 yards and a touchdown, the freshman has continued to develop as the wildcat for the Tigers and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn throughout the year. Because of that, and with Dyer's absence, it could mean more time for Frazier on the field in the Chick-fil-A Bowl as the Tigers turn to the running game against the Cavaliers.

After taking time off for final exams the past two weeks, Auburn will hit the practice field running on Monday evening and when they do it will be an important time for the Tigers and their head coach, Gene Chizik. With a season of wildly different highs and lows, a bowl win and eighth victory would give the Tigers momentum heading into the 2012 season. Another loss and struggles on offense would mean more questions left unanswered with a long time left to think about what went wrong the offense in 2011.

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