M&M's Hoping To Bolster Auburn Running Game

Auburn's Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason talk about the running game for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Virginia.

Atlanta, Ga.—Without sophomore running back Michael Dyer and his back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons the pressure for producing in the running game for the Auburn Tigers will fall to junior Onterio McCalebb and true freshman Tre Mason.

While the two have shown they can get the job done in spurts, it's now going to be up to them to carry the load. McCalebb said they are ready to show what they can do.

"It's just like another game to me," McCalebb said. "I go out there every week, week in and week out, and play to the best of my ability and do what I can to help my team win.

"I have a lot of confidence in Tre that he's going to go out there and do what he's supposed to do. We're going to have a good week of practice this week, do the little things right, and go out there Saturday and do what we can do to help the team win."

It's a little easier for McCalebb to be relaxed heading into the game because of his experience in the offense in his three years. Currently 17th in Auburn history with 1,907 career rushing yards, McCalebb has 20 career touchdowns and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

The same can be said of Mason, although his library of experience isn't nearly as full as McCalebb's. Rushing for just 97 yards this season on 19 carries, most of Mason's work has come as a kickoff return man as he holds two of the top five kickoff return yardage games in school history.

With the chance to show what he can do at running back, Mason is fired up and leaning on McCalebb to help him get the job done.

"He's helped me greatly," Mason said. "He's like a brother. What I didn't really understand, he corrected me on it. He's got me to where I understand the entire offense."

Tre Mason is shown at practice in the Georgia Dome.

While both have shown the ability to get to the edge of a defense neither are what you would call bruising runners. That's what most people think you need to have to be successful running inside, but Mason said it's about more than just size.

"I've been ready," Mason said. "I've been ready since high school to run between the tackles. That's what I'm here to do.

"I think it really takes a lot of heart, and not being afraid to run between the tackles," he added. "Some running backs may be shy between the tackles, but I'm not. It's not a size thing at all."

Knowing that his team needs him to do whatever it takes to win McCalebb said while he's not 220 pounds he's going to be ready to carry it again and again on Saturday.

"It really doesn't matter to me," McCalebb said about his number of carries. "I don't care. I'm going to stay on the field as long as I can. It doesn't matter to me as long as we end up with the W."

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