2014 Auburn Football Preview: Running Backs

The Auburn Tigers head into the season with plenty of possibilities at running back.

Auburn, Ala.--While most football teams would be hard-pressed to replace a running back who was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the 2014 Auburn Tigers might be an exception.

Even without Tre Mason, who set a single-season Auburn record for rushing yards with 1,816 during his team’s run to the SEC championship, the Tigers look to be in good shape at Mason’s position.

When the Tigers open preseason drills position coach Tim Horton and Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s second-year offensive coordinator, will have a variety of good options to hand off the football.

Cameron Artis-Payne gave Mason a real push for the starting job last year. Now in his second season on the Plains after transferring from junior college where he set school records at Allen Hancock College in California, Artis-Payne will be looking to become the main man in the rushing attack. Last season he gained 610 yards at an impressive 6.7 yards per run while rushing for six touchdowns.

With good vision for finding holes in the defense and a physical style of play, the 5-11, 210-pound Artis-Payne will try to hold off a challenge for the starting job from fellow senior Corey Grant.

Corey Grant is shown at the 2014 A-Day Game.

At 5-11, 203 pounds Grant has the strength to run the football in traffic, but where he really excels is on the corners thanks to the speed that made him a 100-meter sprint champion in high school. Grant averaged a seldom-seen 9.8 yards per carry as a junior while finishing the season with 647 yards and six rushing TDs.

Redshirt freshman Peyton Barber is also expected to make a push for a starting role. The 5-11, 226-pounder has good speed and a knack for moving the chains when running between the tackles.

Peyton Barber is shown at spring practice 2014.

Barber earned praise for his play on the scout team last fall and was having a good spring until he suffered an ankle injury at the start of the A-Day Game. Despite that setback he is expected to be full speed and in the mix for playing time this fall.

Roc Thomas is shown as a senior at Oxford High.

The returning backs are expected to face major competition for playing time from a pair of incoming freshmen. Racean Thomas, who was Alabama’s Mr. Football last season as a senior at Oxford High, has been a dynamic runner since his 10th grade year. The 5-11, 190-pounder known as “Roc” may have the right stuff to play a lot this fall with his ability to make tacklers miss and run in traffic.

A bigger freshman at 6-1 1/2, 230 pounds, Kamryn Pettway is coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard plus seasons at Prattville High. A physical back, Pettway should be a good fit in Auburn’s offense. Although Pettway has the size to be a fullback, Coach Gus Malzahn said the newcomer will line up as a running back for the Tigers.

Kamryn Pettway is shown during his senior year for the Prattville Lions.

The coaching staff felt good enough about the running back situation to move sophomore Johnathan Ford to safety, but if the coaches need another tailback type of player senior Patrick Lymon is one of the top walk-ons on the roster.

The fullback situation is very different. The loss of 2013 senior Jay Prosch could be a big deal because he was such a powerful blocker. The Tigers did not sign a replacement so that means that walk-on Gage Batten will be counted on at that position. In spot duty last season the former linebacker did a solid job.

Also, look for the tight end/H-back pair of seniors, Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah, to have fullback blocking duties on occasion.

Preview of the Defensive Tackles

Preview of the Linebackers

Preview of the Centers

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