StatTiger: Mason Worthy Of Major Respect

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) writes about Auburn running back Tre Mason and his record-setting performances for the Tigers.

Before the 2013 football season began Tre Mason set a personal goal as a running back to be one of the best in school history. Back in August the junior spoke about rushing for at least 1,500 yards with a goal of breaking Auburn's record for rushing yardage during a single season.

Rushing for 195 yards in the BCS Championship Game vs. Florida State, Mason finished the season with 1,816 rushing yards, 40 more than the old record that was set in 1985 by Bo Jackson during his Heisman Trophy winning season.

As a true freshman Mason saw limited action during the 2011 season, rushing for 161 yards on 28 carries. His season high came during Gus Malzahn's last game as Auburn's offensive coordinator. Starter Michael Dyer was suspended for the Chick Fil-A Bowl against Virginia, creating an opportunity for the young back. He carried the football 10 times for 64 yards that night, scoring his first Auburn touchdown in helping his team to a victory in Atlanta.

The following season Malzahn left Auburn to become head coach at Arkansas State, which meant a change in offensively philosophy during the 2012 season for the Tigers. Mason worked his way into a starting role his sophomore year, rushing for 1,002 yards on only 171 carries. His success running the football was one of the few bright spots during a 3-9 season.

The return of Malzahn for the 2013 campaign proved to be the catalyst Mason needed to bring the most out of his physical attributes as a running back. When he arrived at Auburn his freshman year Mason weighed around 175 pounds and was known more for his quickness and speed than as a powerful runner. However, Auburn's strength and conditioning program molded him into a more physical player, something that should help him as he makes to the move to pro football after declaring himself eligible for the NFL?Draft.

Before his junior year began he was prepared mentally and physically to be Auburn's every-down running back. "People told me I wasn't big enough, I wasn't strong enough, I wasn't fast enough maybe," Mason said ,reflecting on the past. "I take all of that as motivation to get bigger, stronger and faster and try to prove everyone wrong."

The 2013 team started the season with a 3-0 record with Mason sharing the running back duties with Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Mason, averaged only 68.7 yards on 13 carries per game in those contests as the coaching staff was still evaluating the use of Auburn's personnel.

Mason recorded his first 20-carry game of the season in week No. 4 against LSU, rushing for 132 yards on 26 carries in Baton Rouge. Following that game, with two weeks to prepare for game five vs. Ole Miss, the Tigers became more reliant on zone read plays featuring the running of Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall.

During the final 11 games of the season Mason averaged 146.4 yards and 25.3 carries per game on the way to being named SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

With Auburn leaning on its running game after its first bye-week of the season, Mason became a man possessed to be successful. On his 318 carries he was only tackled for a loss eight times and never more than once during a game.

Mason runs the football in Auburn's victory at Tennessee.

When Mason became the featured player during an offensive possession, he took the offense to a higher level. For the season Auburn scored on 44.9 percent of its offensive possessions. When Mason carried the ball at least thee times during a drive, Auburn scored 73.1 percent of the time.

When Mason had less than three carries during a possession, Auburn scored only 23.3 percent of the time. Of all of his accomplishments during Auburn's impressive 2013 season, this statistic was the most remarkable when it came to team success.

Setting his goal to surpass Jackson's record of 1,786 yards for one season, Mason added other records along the way. His 23 rushing touchdowns are the most by any player in any Auburn season and his 2,374 all-purpose yards are a school record.

He closed his junior season by averaging 194.5 yards per game against four ranked opponents. During Auburn's SEC Championship run he recorded 91 first downs running the football with 47 rushes of 10 yards or more. He was No. 8 nationally in yards rushing per game, gaining 1,077 yards on first down carries alone. He led the nation in red zone rushing yardage and was No. 3 nationally with 20 red zone touchdowns. Gary Danielson of CBS called Tre Mason the best third-down running back in the country.

Through three seasons Mason averaged 170.6 yards rushing vs. Top 10 opponents and 147.8 yards during games with at least 20 carries.

In conference play he averaged 148.5 yards rushing per game with at least 20 carries and 143.3 yards rushing against ranked opponents with a minimum of 20 rush attempts.

He has carried the ball at least 10 times during a game on 22 occasions, averaging 119.9 yards on 5.7 yards per carry in those contests.

Tre Mason (third from left) was invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December.

Mason has also been successful on special teams with 42 career kick returns for 1,107 yards and two touchdowns. His 26.3 yards per return average is No. 2 in school history.

He is No. 6 in career rushing yardage (2,979), No. 7 in career rush attempts (517) and No. 4 in rushing touchdowns (32). In three seasons for the Tigers, Mason rushed for a first down or touchdown every 3.5 carries while averaging a run of 10 yards or longer every sixth carry.

Auburn finished the 2013 season as the No. 2 team in the Associated Press and USA Today polls in addition to being SEC champion and the running by one of the most productive backs in Auburn history played a major role in making that happen.

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