Sophomore Tailback Bigger and Better

Brad Lester's play has been a highlight of preseason football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, made the phrase "I feel good" internationally famous. An Auburn sophomore running back uses those exact same words to describe how he is doing as he prepares for the 2006 football season.

"I feel good," Brad Lester tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "My groin hasn't given me any problems other than going through two-a-days it gets a little sore like everything gets a little sore in two-a-days. I am real hungry and I can't wait until Sept. 2nd."

On September 2nd the Tigers open the season vs. the Washington State Cougars. Although he is a backup to returning All-SEC senior Kenny Irons, based on his performance in preseason look for Lester to see prime-time action. At 5-11, 195 pounds Lester should be a bigger and better player in 2006.

Last year at this time, the tailback was battling a nagging groin muscle injury as well as hamstring problems. That limited what he could do in practice and was one of the reasons the coaching staff moved Tristan Davis from safety to tailback because there was a shortage of healthy tailbacks in two-a-days.

"I feel like I am running fine this preseason," Lester says. "Right now the rotation is Kenny (Irons) with me behind him and that is the role I am willing to play. You never know what is going to happen. He could go down and I have to be ready to step in."

Eddie Gran, who coaches the Auburn running backs, notes that more size and more healthy days on the practice field have been a big plus for Lester going into the season. "He has 10 more pounds and the confidence of 15 practices in the spring with no injuries," Gran points out. "In the preseason he hasn't missed a beat with that extra weight. I think Brad is having a fine camp."

Brad Lester runs the football in an August practice.

In addition to playing the tailback spot, Lester can line up in the F-back role for the Tigers, which means you could see him at fullback or in a split backs set as well as a slot receiver. Those are roles that Tre Smith, Carl Stewart and Ben Tate all can handle, too, which helps Gran feel a lot better about the running back situation than he did at this time last year.

Lester says he is looking forward to playing behind an offensive line that is expected to feature four senior starters. "Running behind that number group makes a big difference," he says. "I have had a lot of reps with the twos and threes and it makes it easier when you are running behind the one offensive line because they have a lot more experience and they know what they are doing."

Lester says he is optimistic about the 2006 team's offense. "I think we have looked the best we have at this time of year since I have been here," he says. "I don't remember us being this productive in the past in preseason against the number one defense. Everybody is out there having fun and competing while trying to beat up on the defense."

Lester says he likes the job the fullbacks are doing. Junior walk-on Andrew Turman is running first team along with Carl Stewart while Danny Perry and Stephen Gowland are running even as the backups, Gran says.

In the spring he was having a difficult time keeping his weight up. He dropped all the way down to 178 pounds at one point, prompting Gran to regularly check the sophomore's eating habits.

"I am one of those guys who doesn't like to eat breakfast," he says. "Doing that has helped me get my weight back and keep it on."

Lester and his teammates will start fall semester classes on Wednesday as they continue preparations for the Sept. 2nd season opener vs. Washington State. Although he isn't expected to start, he should see significant action as a backup tailback and a kickoff returner.

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