Lester Making A Push For More Playing Time

Auburn, Ala.--Eddie Gran and Tommy Tuberville aren't surprised that Brad Lester added a spark to the running attack vs. Mississippi State. The Auburn running backs coach and the head coach say they believe that is a preview of coming attractions for the redshirt freshman tailback.

Lester carried the ball six times for 34 yards and scored the game's only rushing touchdown, a six-yard burst up the middle late in the fourth quarter of Auburrn's 28-0 victory over the Bulldogs.

"It felt good," Lester says. "It felt like my first touchdown I had back in high school."

Lester knows his way to the end zone once he tucks a football under his arm. He ran for 27 touchdowns and 2,090 yards as a senior at Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga. He was a two-time All-State selection there who rushed for 1,630 yards and 15 touchdowns on a state championship team his junior year.

There has never been any doubt about his ability since he got to Auburn, but injuries have kept him from having a chance to step into the spotlight. He played briefly as a true freshman and provided a memorable kickoff return at Mississippi State that was called back by a penalty. However, he was injured early last fall and received a medical redshirt.

Lester missed all of spring practice this year with a groin pull and a nagging hamstring injury. After getting those problems rehabbed, he tweaked his hamstring again during preseason drills and was not able to make a serious push for a starting job in preseason. However, that could be changing.

"My hamstring is a lot better," Lester tells Inside the Auburn Tigers "Every now and then it gives me a little problem. It is nowhere near as bad as it was during two-a-days and the week of the Georgia Tech game it was really bad. It is feeling a lot better."

Brad Lester fights for yardage vs. Mississippi State.

Gran says he is pleased to get Lester back into the tailback mix. "You love his explosion," the running backs coach says. "You saw that at the beginning of camp. Brad has got a little bit of speed and a little bit of juke to him. We saw that, obviously, when we recruited him.

"Brad has got no fear," Gran adds. "He runs the ball very hard and you can see that speed. It was at the end of the game, and all of that, but he was running hard at the beginning when he got his couple of reps. I expect to see him get more reps as we move on down the road."

Lester says he is working to become an all-around back who does everything well. "If you can't block you aren't going to play," he says. "That is the way he (Gran) does it. The running backs now don't just run the ball. They have to be able to run, block and catch. If you can't do those three things you can't get playing time."

Lester, who began preseason practice at 5-11, 197 pounds, has lost six pounds practicing in the heat of August and September, but says it doesn't seem to be bothering him. In running style, he has some similarities to 2004 Auburn star Carnell Williams.

"I try to show my speed and I try to run over people at the same time, kind of like Carnell did," Lester says. "He would try to put a move on you, but he would try to run over people, too."

Lester expected to play last week vs. Mississippi State, but had no idea it would be so early in the game. On the first play, Tre Smith was at tailback. On play two Carl Stewart was in the game. On play three Kenny Irons got the call at tailback and on play four Lester ran the football.

"It was real fun to get back in there," he notes. "I have been looking forward to it. I was shocked they put me in the game so early. I messed up on my first carry, but after that I felt real comfortable out there. Coach Gran never mentioned it. We had no idea he was going to do it."

With starting tailback Smith questionable for this week's game vs. Ball State, Lester and the other tailbacks are jockeying for playing time. Lester says he is looking forward to game three, even if it is against a low-profile opponent out of the Mid-American Conference.

The redshirt freshman can name a nice size list of early season upsets and says he and his teammates plan to take the Cardinals as a serious opponent. "You never know what can happen," he says. "We are treating them like any other team."

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