AU Sophomore Expecting Improvement

Ben Tate looks to step up his production in year two as an Auburn running back.

Auburn, Ala.--After playing in nine games and averaging 7.3 yards per carry as a true freshman, Ben Tate says he should be a better running back in year two with the Auburn football team.

"I am definitely a lot stronger than when I got here," Tate tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I came in weighing around 212 to 215 pounds. I am the exact same this year, but I am a lot stronger and lot more toned up. My upper body is a lot stronger and my lower body is, too."

Ben Tate set a rushing record for Maryland high school football before joining the Tigers last season.

Tate has also been training as a kickoff returner in Auburn's preseason workouts where the Tigers are missing last year's main man for that assignment, Tristan Davis, who is out of action for as much as two months with a broken bone in his foot. Davis had surgery on his foot last Saturday.

"We will see how that shakes down," Tate says. "Hopefully, Tristan will be back soon. Hopefully, he will be back after the third game. Right now Mario (Mario Fannin) and Pat (Patrick Lee) are back there and hopefully they can handle that."

If he gets the call to return the kickoffs, Tate says that is an assignment he will take in stride. "I definitely feel comfortable doing it. It is something I did in high school."

Tate contends that in addition to being stronger in year two as a college football player, he is quicker and more polished with his running back skills.

"I don't know if the fans will notice a difference in me, but I think my coaches and teammates will notice a difference," he says. "You probably have to be a real fan of football to notice the details like picking up blitzes and making the right reads when you run."

Tate and the Tigers are getting a welcome day off from practice to concentrate on the start of fall semester classes on Thursday. That will give the sophomore a chance to recover from practicing for two weeks without a break while dealing with temperatures around 100 degrees.

"The heat is kicking everybody's butt, but you have to stay focused and fight through it," Tate says. "The guys who do the best are the ones who don't think about it a lot and just keep fighting through it. Those are the ones who want it the most."

Tate ran the football 54 times for 392 yards and three touchdowns last season. He gained 156 of those yards on 26 carries vs. Tulane.

Auburn's offense didn't play as well as the AU defense last year. Tate says the Tigers have the potential to be more productive moving the football and scoring, but notes the team is still a work in progress.

"Our offensive line has to come together and be able run block and to pass block for Cox (QB Brandon Cox)," Tate says. "With the wide receivers a lot of our guys are young and inexperienced. They have got to come together and grow up quickly. That is a good group of receivers. At running back somebody has to step up and take it over and we need to come together as an offense and work as one unit."

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