Fannin Looking to Make the Offense Run Better

An Auburn football report features comments from Mario Fannin.

Auburn, Ala.--Mario Fannin says it is essential that his Tigers do a better job running the football as Auburn prepares for a road trip to Ole Miss on Saturday. The Tigers are looking for their fifth consecutive victory over the Rebels as they try to snap a three-game losing streak.

"The importance of having success running the ball is something we all know as a team," says Fannin, who has moved back to tailback from wide receiver to bolster a position hit by injuries to Ben Tate (hamstring) and Brad Lester (knee).

"As running backs we have to break tackles and make those extra yards," Fannin says.

The redshirt sophomore twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter of the West Virginia game on a kickoff return. He says it hurt a great deal on Thursday night, but is encouraged by how it has responded. "My ankle is fine," he says. "I ran on it at Sunday's practice and the pain is gone."

Fannin notes that he is also encouraged by what he saw in his team's first practice since its 34-17 loss to the Mountaineers last week. "We came out with good intensity," he says. "We had an offensive meeting and the big thing we talked about was finishing. We did some things in practice we don't normally do to emphasize finishing.

"We also did some extra sprints to help us do a better job of finishing in the second half," he notes. "I don't think conditioning is a problem because Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) conditions us well, but I think doing the extra running is a good idea."

The Tigers are 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the SEC heading to Oxford this week. Ole Miss has identical records after holding off a late rally by Arkansas to win 23-21 on Saturday night.

The Tigers normally start putting in the game plan on Tuesdays, but got a head start at the Sunday practice. "Normally we work on correcting mistakes on Sunday, but this week we put on the full pads and got after it and that is something we needed," Fannin says.

Fannin notes that the two seniors in the running backs group, Tristan Davis and Lester, are encouraging the other backs to stay focused for the final third of the season. "Tristan does a great job being a leader with the running backs," Fannin says. "He gets us straight and tries to make sure we are on the top of our game. Brad does the same thing, although he is more of a visual person and doesn't really say a lot. Tristan is more vocal."

After watching video of the West Virginia game, Fannin says it is clear what the Tigers need to do this week to play better offensively. "In the first half we played with a lot of intensity and were driving them off the ball and getting four or five yards a pop," he says. "In the second half we weren't getting the same push and getting that extra drive as far as finishing runs. That is something we watched and noticed we weren't doing and it is something we are trying to work on now."

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