Auburn, Ala.--It has taken almost two months since injuring his hamstring in preseason practice, but finally fullback Carl Stewart is full speed and playing the kind of football expected of one Auburn's most experienced offensive players.
Named the offensive player of the week last week against Vanderbilt despite carrying the ball just two times for 15 yards and catching one pass for nine yards, Stewart did the little things that had been missing from his game each of the first few weeks of the season such as making the extra block and running through tackles. He also stood out on special teams, something he says was asked of him before the game.
"I just did what the coaches told me to do," Stewart says. "Coach (Eddie) Gran asked me to step it up on special teams and put me out there a little bit more. I just went out there and executed."
Stewart earned his weekly honor despite big games from all three of Auburn's running backs. Benjamin Tate rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown while Mario Fannin added 54 yards and a score as well. The biggest day may have come from junior Brad Lester. In his return after serving a six-game suspension because of academics, Lester finished with 77 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Stewart says the way Lester handled things off the field allowed him to be successful in his return.
"A lot of guys could have lost focus and could have been disappointed with everything and said forget this," Stewart says. "Brad stuck with it and had a positive attitude and now he's back."
With almost a full compliment of running backs for the first time this season, Auburn piled up 239 yards on the ground against the Commodores to continue a string of solid play out of the offense that started against New Mexico State. Stewart says the change in the offense from the first three weeks until now has been dramatic, but all because of one thing.
"It's all about attitude," Stewart says. "That's kind of what the coaches have been stressing. We kind of thought the first couple of games we were going to roll our helmets out there against teams with a lot of athletes and talent. We just didn't execute. Now we've got the right attitude going into it. We're not taking anybody lightly."
This week the Tigers face a tough challenge against the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road. Playing their way back into the Top 25 for the first time since losing to Mississippi State, Stewart says the Tigers have got things rolling right now and he's looking to keep that momentum heading into this weekend's game.
"We had it last week and it continued the success against Florida to go ahead and do what we needed to do against Vanderbilt," Stewart says. "It shows that we're not losing focus at all. We've got our goals set out and we're doing what we need to do to accomplish those."