Running Backs Shine Bright

Head Coach Tommy Tuberville and running backs coach Eddie Gran would be willing to put any of their four running backs into the game at any given time.

Auburn, Ala.--It is usually hard to find a bright spot after your team turns the ball over five times, has 10 penalties, allows four sacks, 226 rushing yards and loses 31-14, but Coach Tommy Tuberville says there were several that he saw in Auburn's first three games.

One in particular that stands out to the coach is the play of the tailbacks. "I think one thing I talked with Eddie Gran he feels comfortable putting either of the four running backs that we have on the team into the game," Tuberville says. He also notes that he saw improvement out of all four of them against Syracuse. "All the running backs played well. They ran better tracks than what they had been doing."

As a unit, the four combined to rush for 162 yards on 32 carries vs. Syracuse and also had three catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. And quarterback Jason Campbell, who Tuberville calls his fifth running back, had a 44-yard touchdown run.

Casinious Moore was the top ground gainer for the Tigers against Syracuse. He carried the ball 13 times for 67 yards. Ronnie Brown, Auburn's starter at tailback, had 12 carries for 52 yards. Both Moore (strained calf) and Brown (bruised shoulder) suffered minor injuries vs. the Orangemen, but neither are serious enough to keep the duo out of the lineup. "Ronnie is still not 100 percent," Tuberville says. "We're going to get him 100 percent before the end of this week. He did good for about 15 plays (against Syracuse), then his shoulder started hurting him a little more. We've got more than one running back and we're going to have to give him a little bit of a break."

Their injuries along with a 24-point deficit allowed the coaches to get more playing time for third-stringer, true freshman Carnell Williams, who missed the Ole Miss game with an ankle injury, and fourth-string sophomore Chris Butler. Both Williams and Butler took advantage of their opportunities by performing well in limited action.

In the Tigers' final two drives, Williams had five carries for 39 yards and one reception for 12 yards while Butler had two carries for 14 yards and his first collegiate touchdown which came on a 21-yard screen pass.

It is easy to see why Tuberville would call this area of his team a bright spot. Redshirt freshman Brown is the team's leading rusher with 198 yards on 42 carries. His lone touchdown of the season came on a 43-yard run against Ball State in the season opener.

Moore is listed as the No. 2 back on the depth chart. He leads the group with three rushing touchdowns, all of which came against Ole Miss. The sophomore had a career-high 69 yards on 13 carries vs. the Rebels. For the season, Moore has 152 yards on 35 carries.

Williams' rushing numbers vs. Ball State (nine carries for 10 yards) were not as impressive as the ones he posted against Syracuse in similar situations against second team defenses, but in both games he has proven he can make something happen out of the backfield as a receiver. Against the Cardinals he had three catches for 36 yards.

For the season, he has 14 carries for 49 yards and four receptions for 48 yards. "I thought he did well," Tuberville says of Williams first action since the Ball State game. "Of course, they didn't have some of their starters out there, but I thought he ran the right track on some of the zone plays and caught the ball well. We're just going to have to get him more playing time."

Carnell Williams could be a vital part of the game plan against Vanderbilt

With Brown and Moore both suffering from nagging injuries, the chance for Williams to get more playing time could come against Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 1-2 after escaping with a 28-22 victory over Division I-AA Richmond last Saturday.

Tuberville says his young team learned a valuable lesson after their defeat at the hands of the Orangemen. "I think most of them kind of understand a little bit more now when you go on the road that you have got to be totally focused on what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and when you are going to do it and that you got to feed off your teammates other than the 85,000 people that are normally in Jordan-Hare Stadium."

Another bright spot Tuberville can take heading into the Vanderbilt game is that his team is still undefeated in conference play and has a solid chance to improve that mark to 2-0 if the Tigers take the lessons they learned from their Carrier Dome experience on the road against the Commodores Saturday night.

Game time is set for 6 p.m. and will be shown on a pay-per-view basis only with the Auburn Network's own Andy Burcham and Rod Bramblett calling the action. The game can be ordered through your local cable provider, Dish Network subscribers should tune to channel 457 to place their order, or residential C-Band satellite customers can call 1-800-TV-STARS to order.

The television rights to the Tigers' matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Oct. 6th have been picked up by ESPN2 and kickoff for that game is set for 6 p.m.

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