When Auburn's spring football practice starts on Tuesday the former Milton High School standout from Alpharetta, Ga., will be trying to show Horton, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and head coach Gus Malzahn he is ready to take over the starting spot vacated by 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year Tre Mason.
With the Tigers being set at running back last fall with Mason as the returning starter plus Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne competing for playing time, the decision was made to redshirt Barber even though he won praise for his performance in preseason drills last August.
"I tried to learn the offense and pick up the schemes of the defense," Barber said when asked about his first fall at Auburn.
Horton said he is looking forward to working with the redshirt freshman. "I really feel good about Peyton Barber," the running backs coach said. "I think Peyton Barber has a chance to be special. He has got a great work ethic. He has got good speed, good quickness, good toughness, good balance, good hands and he loves playing the game."
Barber noted that this will be an important spring to establish he is ready to contribute. "I am definitely looking forward to it," he said. "I have always been that underdog that nobody knows about so I am looking forward to showing what I can do and proving myself."
A player who came on strong as a senior after missing most of his junior season in high school with an injury, he rushed for 1,980 yards during the 2012 season to attract the attention of Malzahn, who had just taken over as head coach of the Tigers.
Malzahn convinced Barber to change his commitment from Ole Miss to Auburn. Based on how the running back looked in practice last fall he has a solid chance to contribute this year.
"I definitely feel like I have got a whole better," Barber said. "I wasn't really in shape when I came in, but I am now and I know the offense and the different schemes of the defense. I feel pretty good."
Although he won the Georgia state weight lifting championship in the 225-pound class at Milton High, he said handling the strength and conditioning program at Auburn has pushed him.
"It has been pretty difficult, but if it wasn't then I would feel like my weight coach isn't doing the right thing so it being difficult is a good thing," he said.
The running back pointed out that he was impressed with the Tigers during their run to the SEC championship that almost turned into a national title season. Barber contends his team is in good hands with Malzahn running the program. "Coach Malzahn knows what to do," the running back said. "He is the man with the plan."