Tristan Davis Discusses Move to Tailback

Redshirt freshman Tristan Davis worked with the offense as Auburn began preseason football drills.

Auburn, Ala.--At times on Tuesday, Tristan Davis looked a bit like a fish out of water as the Auburn redshirt freshman returned to the practice field for the start of preseason drills.

However, considering his circumstances, a little confusion was to be expected because it was the first action at running back for Davis since he was a senior in high school.

The 5-10, 200-pound speedster from Tri-Cities High moved to offense as an experiment to add more depth at a position that currently has just three healthy players on the Auburn team's 105-man roster.

Junior Tre Smith, who had emergency surgery last week for an appendectomy, is not expected to be allowed to practice for approximately two weeks. That left Kenny Irons, Carl Stewart and Brad Lester as the only tailbacks as Auburn began preseason drills on Tuesday.

A day earlier, Davis met with offensive coordinator Al Borges and running backs coach Eddie Gran about making the move to a position he played in high school while doing double-duty as an All-State safety. He told those coaches, along with Tommy Tuberville, he was willing to give it a try.

"I just want to contribute to the team and be on the field to help the team anyway I can," says Davis, who notes he likes the physical aspect of playing football. "Touchdowns are nice so I guess I would like to run the ball."

In high school, he rushed for five touchdowns and 837 yards as a senior while making 142 tackles at safety, Davis practiced at cornerback last fall before moving to safety. He was third team on the depth chart behind two-year starter Will Herring and sophomore Tony Bell at free safety at the end of spring practice.

Tristan Davis takes a handoff at practice.

At Tri-Cities High, he shared the carries with another outstanding player, Remarcus Brown, and says the two were like a high school version of "Cadillac and Ronnie Brown were for Auburn last year." Davis adds, "We spread the ball out between the two of us."

His high school team ran a pro-set offense with split backs and the "I" formation. In "I" plays, Davis lined up at fullback.

Commenting on his style as a runner, Davis says, "I am not really a power back. I am more of a speed back. I don't make a lot of moves. I try to make one and then burst out of there."

Davis is expected to be one of the fastest players on the 2005 AU team, regardless of position. He says that he ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash in a workout on campus earlier this year.

Davis notes that he was excited when he found out he was getting a look at tailback. "I called my dad and my cousin (Jabari Davis), who played tailback at Tennessee. He (Davis) said running backs are in our family and told me, ‘You can do it.' He said, ‘You know you are going to have to work hard and you are going to have to study, study, study.' He told me if I do that I can be a starter."

Davis admits the first day at tailback was a challenge. "It was pretty difficult," he says. "Learning the plays is pretty hard, but you can watch the guys ahead of you to get the steps right."

Tuberville says the move is an experiment. There is a possibility that Davis may return to safety. The redshirt freshman says he wouldn't mind staying on offense "if I get good at it." He also notes that he has "some tough competition ahead of me."

"I think I am going to handle it well," the redshirt freshman says. "I met with Coach Hollis (offensive graduate assistant) and Coach Gran. I met with them on my own time. I am trying to pick up things real fast. Some of it is sinking in. Some of it goes in one ear and out the other."

Davis says he believes his frame is a solid size for an SEC running back at 5-10, 200 to go with his good speed. "I am not too big, but not too small either."

Smith and Stewart had strong springs at tailback. Lester missed the workouts with injuries, but looks ready to compete for playing time, something that Davis says will be a real test for him. "The only thing about tailback is that I have a lot of great guys ahead of me--Kenny, Carl and Brad and Tre, even though he is out right now. I know when he comes back he is not going to be too far behind."

Davis, who was the MVP of the Georgia North-South All-Star Game before coming to Auburn to play college football, says, "Auburn recruited me as an athlete. When I first came here, they asked me which one I would prefer. I really didn't give them which one I would prefer. I guess they figured I would be needed on defense first so that is where I was last year."

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