Fannin Enjoying Expanded Role For Tigers

Auburn junior Mario Fanning talks about his role on offense and gaining confidence heading into 2010.

Auburn, Ala.--There is no question that the offensive success of the 2009 Auburn Tigers is a big reason why Coach Gene Chizik's first team is playing on New Year's Day in the Outback Bowl against Northwestern.

The season that Chris Todd had throwing the ball with a school-record 21 touchdowns, Ben Tate's 1,254 rushing yards, and Darvin Adams catching 48 passes for 855 yards and 10 scores all played a big role in that offensive success, but one of the guys that held everything together was junior Mario Fannin.

Playing mostly wide receiver this season, Fannin was second on the team with 39 receptions. He finished with 403 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Also getting the chance to run the ball some when Onterio McCalebb was banged up, Fannin added 271 yards rushing on just 32 carries to make him a significant dual-threat for the Tigers While it was a good year, Fannin said he's still looking for more.

"I feel like I could have done better, but you're always going to feel like that," Fannin said. "I feel like I could have done better, but at the same time it's a blessing that the coaching staff came in and blessed me with the opportunities I've had. I can't wait to see what the future is going to hold. Being able to be around the coaching staff and get to know them more and just learning from them more is going to help me out in the long run."

Fannin's role in Auburn's offense is one that has him lining up outside, in motion, and sometimes in the backfield. Because of his expanded role in the offense he said it's a fun system to play in.

"Its real exciting because it gives you the opportunity to do everything and help the team out in any way," Fannin said. "That's something that a lot of people can't do. At the same time it's whatever the team needs you're able to contribute in that way. It's pretty big."

Entering the 2009 season Fannin was somewhat of an enigma as he had shown flashes of brilliance in his career, but had never really been given a defined role on the team. As a freshman he was third on the team in rushing yards with 448 yards and scored seven touchdowns, but last season his rushing total dropped to just 238 yards. He did add 223 receiving yards in 2008, but it was just the tip of the iceberg of Fannin showing his talents on the field.

With Malzahn in and looking for playmakers, Fannin became one of those guys playing outside at wide receiver, a role he said he really enjoys. Playing in an offense designed to get players the ball with a chance to make plays, the former high school quarterback said the offense is just what he imagined it could be.

"It's exactly what I thought," Fannin said. "Being able to see how we've changed from day one when we first started the offense until now, and seeing the progress we've made is amazing. You can only sit back and wonder. After this year we'll have the off season to work on it more. Come next year when it's football time we'll see what we do then. That's something I can't wait to see and probably the rest of the team."

Next year is still one more game away as the Tigers finish off 2009 against a very capable Northwestern team that finished the regular season 8-4 including wins over Iowa and Wisconsin. Fannin said getting a victory to earn Auburn its eighth win would be a huge building block for the program as it moves forward.

"It's going to be real big for us," Fannin said. "It would be letting our seniors go out the right way. This bowl game, in the interest of a new season and a new year, would be real big for us to get a win and work off that towards next year."

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