Led by senior Onterio McCalebb, the running back position may be one of the strongest for Coach Gene Chizik's club this season and Inside The Auburn Tigers starts there with a look at what Curtis Luper has to work with this season.
With Michael Dyer gone to Arkansas State it may very well wind up being addition by subtraction for the Auburn Tigers in 2012. Without a doubt Dyer's talent will be missed, but having five possible candidates to replace him creates plenty of competition and also plenty of versatility for new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to work with this fall.
There is no question that one of the first goals for Loeffler and company will be trying to find ways to get the football in the hands of senior Onterio McCalebb. Averaging 6.46 yards per carry for his career on 312 attempts (2,016 yards), the speedy McCalebb has scored 18 rushing touchdowns and is a threat to go the distance each time he touches the ball. Also adding 32 receptions for 344 yards and a pair of scores, McCalebb should be a valuable weapon out of the backfield for the Tigers.
The only returning running back with any experience is sophomore Tre Mason. Also a speedster, Mason is up over 200 pounds and should be able to provide a punch between the tackles to go along with his speed to the edge. Last season he ran for 161 yards on just 28 carries and scored one touchdown. Much of his work came in Auburn's bowl win over Virginia when he carried the ball nine times for 64 yards.
Two additions who were with the team last year and unable to play should also add some excitement to the Auburn running game in 2012. Transferring in from Alabama, Opelika native Corey Grant earned the respect of his coaches and teammates last season for his work on the scout team. That carried over to spring practice as Grant was one of the bright spots on offense not only for his running ability, but also his work in pass blocking and protecting the quarterback.
Transferring to Auburn from Florida after just a spring in Gainesville, Mike Blakely sat out last season for the Tigers before jumping into the action in the spring as well. A physical back who showed very good feet in the spring, Blakely needs to become more consistent in every part of his game in order to become an every-down back for the Tigers. Probably the most ideal back on campus this spring to run between the tackles, the redshirt freshman should get a chance to prove that early in the 2012 season.
The wildcard at the running back position is true freshman Jovon Robinson. The biggest of the five running back candidates at nearly 220 pounds, Robinson will try to hit the ground running during two-a-days in August and jump into the rotation right away. Physical with the speed to get to the edge, Robinson has the opportunity to play right away with Luper and Scot Loeffler expected to rotate the guys in and out to find the right combination.
Corey Grant follows Jay Prosch for a touchdown in the A-Day game
One question mark that was answered in June was at fullback as Illinois Jay Prosch was granted a waiver of the transfer rule by the NCAA to play this season for the Tigers because of special circumstances. Prosch enrolled at Auburn in January to be closer to his mother in Mobile, who is being treated for cancer.
An old-school lead blocker who should add another dimension to the running game for the Tigers, Prosch was named a First-Team All-American in 2011 by Pro Football Weekly and was also a Big 10 All-Academic Team member. Able to participate in winter workouts and spring training at his new college, Prosch earned praise from his coaches and new teammates.