StatTiger: Mason A Good Fit for AU Offense

StatTiger crunches the numbers on tailback Tre Mason as he prepares for his junior season.

One of the few bright spots for the Auburn football team's offense in 2012 was running back Tre Mason, who became the 21st player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single a season.

The sophomore accounted for 56.3 percent of Auburn's rushing total last year and he was second on the team in generating plays of 15 yards or more, trailing only wide receiver Emory Blake.

The rising junior returns to pick up from where he left off last season and says he will try to take a role as a team leader as the Tigers return to an offensive system he was in as a freshman in 2011. "I look to help other people that don't really understand it," he says.

Though Mason was slowed by an ankle injury during spring practice, when he returned late in the session he was effective running in the system he was recruited to play in when current head coach Gus Malzahn was Auburn's offensive coordinator.

Mason became only the third sophomore running back in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark during a season, joining Bo Jackson and Ronnie Brown in that group.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says he likes Mason's experience in the offense and his ability to run inside the tackles while also being effective on the corners and in space with the potential to make defenders miss tackles.

Entering the 2013 season Mason will be one of the top running backs returning in the Southeastern Conference as his name is already being recognized on preseason all-conference teams. Comparing Mason's numbers from the 2012 season to the other returning backs in the conference, he rates close to the top of the list.

In terms of yards per rush and his ratio in runs of 10 yards or more, runs of 20 yards or more and first downs, Mason finished at No. 3 among the Top 10 returning running backs in the conference. He was No. 3 in runs of 10 yards or more, No. 4 in runs of 20 yards or more, No. 2 in producing first downs and No. 4 in yards per rush. Overall, Mason finished behind Georgia's Todd Gurley and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon as the third most productive running back in 2012.

Considering the issues Auburn had on the offensive line and at quarterback during 2012, Mason's 1,002 yards on just 171 carries is an impressive feat, especially in such a conservative offense. His return to Malzahn's dynamic offense should translate to an even more productive season for the junior running back.

Mason likely won't lead the league in carries because he is expected to share the payload with Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. The junior says he understands Malzahn wants to utilize multiple backs and the internal competition for reps will not be an issue. "It actually got me excited," Mason says. "I love seeing them (Artis-Payne and Grant) do their thing and ball out. We want to do this thing together and we're looking to do something--have three 1,000-yard backs."

Mason rushed for eight touchdowns last season, including a run of 86 yards, which was the longest run for a score by an Auburn player since Brent Fullwood went the distance from 88 yards out against Mississippi State in 1986.

During his young career, Mason has averaged 6.04 yards per rush during the 10 games he had at least 10 carries. In just 199 career carries as an Auburn Tiger, Mason has produced 38 run plays of 10 yards or more. It is this kind of explosiveness that the Auburn coaches are expecting out of the junior tailback.

Malzahn's offense has averaged nearly eight runs of 10 yards or longer during his tenure as a college coordinator or head coach. Mason looks ready to help that trend continue as he prepares for what he hopes will be his best season as an Auburn football player.

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