Starting All Over Again

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Brown probably feels more like a ping-pong ball than a running back after the way he has bounced around the AU depth chart this season.

Auburn, Ala.--After Ronnie Brown scampered 43 yards for his first collegiate touchdown in Auburn's 30-0 season-opening victory over Ball State, it looked like the AU coaches had found their replacement for departed star Rudi Johnson.

The redshirt freshman bulled over one Cardinal and hurdled another on his way to the goal line on what looked like the type of run Johnson patented for the Tigers last season. But that run turned out to be the Brown's only touchdown of the season until 11 weeks later when he reached the end zone on a five-yard run after replacing injured starter Carnell Williams in the team's 31-7 loss to Alabama.

Ronnie Brown runs vs. Alabama.

It has been a rollercoaster ride for Brown in his first season of consistent action for the Tigers after he received a medical redshirt in 2000. He has gone from the No. 1 tailback in the Ball State and Ole Miss games to the No. 2 tailback in the Syracuse game. Then a shoulder injury forced him to miss Auburn's 24-21 victory at Vanderbilt. He returned the next week as No. 3 tailback for the Mississippi State game and remained in that role for the Florida game as he fought to overcome a deep thigh bruise and a turf toe injury that has plagued him all season.

The AU coaches then experimented with the Cartersville, Ga., native at fullback naming him the starter there for the Louisiana Tech and Arkansas games when Brandon Johnson was needed at linebacker due to injuries at those positions.. And after then No. 2 tailback Casinious Moore had costly fumbles vs. the Bulldogs and Razorbacks, respectively, the staff moved him to the backup tailback spot for the Alabama game.

Ronnie Brown

Now with Williams likely out until next season with a broken left clavicle, the door is open for Brown to return to where he started the season as the No. 1 tailback. Brown had 15 carries for 41 yards and his second TD of the season vs. the Tide after getting just 19 carries in Auburn's previous five games.

The six-foot-one, 228-pounder notes that getting those carries vs. Alabama was good for him. "It helped," Brown told Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I hadn't played tailback in a little while. I played fullback in the Georgia game, so coming into the Alabama game playing tailback I kind of got back in the rhythm and I'm starting to feel comfortable with running the ball. I still have a couple of things I need to work on, but that is the whole thing to the game, to improve, and there is always room for improvement."

Brown will battle Moore, who is the team's second-leading rusher with 510 yards, and third-teamer Chris Butler for the starting spot vs. LSU and says the extra competition for the top spot has been good for the backs. "We try to look at that on the positive side of things," he notes. "That kind of encourages everybody to work hard. Going into this game, being the big game of the season, everybody kind of wants to play and get in and have something to do with a win. Everybody wants to do their part and hopefully we can use that to give us a little edge and get everybody going."

Ronnie Brown has played tailback and fullback this season.

Regardless of who gets the start in Baton Rouge, the AU coaches have implied that they plan on using all three backs in situations that utilize the different strengths of the trio. Brown says he hasn't gotten a gauge on which back will get the start, but adds whether he starts or comes off the bench, he will be ready. "Anytime you can have a big role in a game, and especially on the college level, you look forward to it and want to do your best."

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