Spring Football Preview: Running Backs

Auburn enters spring practice with replenished depth at the running back position.

Auburn, Ala.-- Heading into spring practice last year, Auburn's roster included only two scholarship running backs, Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, and a host of walk-ons.

Whereas Auburn's depth at the running back position was an area of concern last year, it is an area of promise this season.

The Tigers' backfield took a hit in the off-season when All-SEC tailback Michael Dyer transferred to Arkansas State in January after being suspended indefinitely by Auburn in early December and sitting out the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Dyer got the lion's share of carries for Auburn last year, toting the ball 242 times for 1,242 yards (103.5 yards per game) and 10 touchdowns.

Despite the loss of Dyer, the running back position will be stocked with more depth and talent than last year.

After opting to come back for his senior season instead of declaring for the NFL Draft, Onterio McCalebb, the team's top returning rusher, will be the leader of a young unit that includes two sophomores, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman.

McCalebb churned out 641 yards on the ground and five touchdowns on 112 carries in 2011. He was also the team's second-leading receiver behind Emory Blake, finishing the season with 32 receptions for 344 yards and two touchdowns.

The speedster's versatility as both a runner and receiver should make him a primary weapon in the attack of first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

Tre Mason looks for yardage last fall.

Auburn fans saw flashes of Tre Mason's potential last season as he juked his way to 161 yards on 28 carries. As a true freshman he rushed for 64 yards on nine carries in Auburn's bowl win over Virginia.

How big a load he'll carry in the running game will likely depend on the progress of Mike Blakely and Corey Grant.

Blakely transferred to Auburn last May after spending one semester at the University of Florida. The 5-9, 207-pound tailback redshirted last season as he was ineligible to play because of NCAA transfer rules.

The Bradenton, Fla., native ou rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 42 touchdowns combined in his junior and senior seasons at Manatee High.

Blakely will compete for playing time with Grant, a walk-on who sat out last season after transferring from arch-rival Alabama.

The 5-10, 190-pound Opelika native will look to make the jump into the running back rotation after spending last season on the scout team, where he was honored by the coaching staff as its offensive scout team performer of the year.

Corey Grant is a walk-on for the Tigers.

Also in the mix for playing time at the position will be senior Anthony Morgan. Bouncing back and forth between defense and offense for his career and battling injuries, Morgan could see some time at running back this spring as well for the Tigers.

Auburn picked up another transfer in Jay Prosch, who spent the previous two seasons as the starting fullback for Illinois.

Jay Prosch was an impact player the past two seasons for the Illini.

The 6-1, 255-pound Mobile native was named an All-American by Pro Football Weekly last season for his blocking ability. He will play the same position for Tigers, who are expected to use a fullback in Loeffler's new offensive scheme. He has applied for a waiver of the transfer rule because he moved to Auburn to be closer to his mother, who is ill.

Ladarious Phillips, a huge fullback, has seem limited action so far.

Sophomore Ladarious Phillips is another possibility at fullback. Running back Jovon Robinson, who signed with Auburn in February, will join the Tigers in the summer and be ready to contribute in fall camp.

The Tigers will hit the field Friday for the first of 15 spring practices. The annual A-Day game will be played April 14 in Jordan-Hare Stadium, with kickoff slated for a 2 p.m. CDT.

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