Freshman Backs Hoping To Make Some Noise

Auburn running backs Ladarious Phillips and Michael Dyer talk about the adjustment to college football and the offense.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the questions for the Auburn Tigers coming into the 2010 football season is at running back where Mario Fannin is expected to shoulder the load left by the departed Ben Tate.

With Onterio McCalebb back as well he should be able to provide some spark to the running game with his speed to the edge.

Playing in the SEC though two guys aren't enough to last a 12-game schedule playing against the best defensive teams in the country. That's why the Tigers went out and signed two physical running backs in the 2010 class. One of them, Michael Dyer, was rated as one of the top prospects in the country. The other, Ladarious Phillips, was a lightly-recruited prospect who looks more like a defensive tackle than someone that should be carrying the football.

Looking for immediate help the coaching staff has thrown both guys into the fire already this preseason with Phillips getting his chance on Monday night. Playing a majority of snaps at fullback while carrying the ball one time, the now slimming down 288-pound back said for him it was nice to be so involved in the offense.

"I expected it," Phillips said. "I knew it was going to come soon, but I didn't expect it this soon. I enjoyed it because it was a lot of physical contact. I played fullback a good bit and ran the ball. I enjoyed it since I played running back in high school. It was fun to do it on the college level."

A player who offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said Monday night that the coaching staff wanted to get a better look at to see if he could help this season, Phillips said for him it has just been a matter of adjusting to the speed of the game and learning a very complex system in a short period of time.

"I'm adjusting pretty good but I've still got a lot to learn about college football," Phillips said. "It's a lot different than high school. It's a lot faster, a lot faster."

Michael Dyer

While Phillips is trying to get into the playing rotation, Dyer is pretty set in the knowledge that he'll play some kind of role for the Tigers in 2010. Just how big of a role may be determined in the next two weeks beginning with Tuesday night's scrimmage. Malzahn said that the talented freshman would get a much bigger role in carrying the ball in scrimmage number three.

For Dyer it's something he relishes. Ready to get to the season and play for Auburn for the first time in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Arkansas native said he's anxious to show people why he was one of the top running backs in the country last year.

"I feel like when the season starts and we have our first game then people will know the reason why I came here and the reason why I came here," Dyer said. "I think the first game will open some eyes, not just for me, but for the whole team because of our abilities. For me when I get my chance to actually shine and carry the ball more then you'll understand why."

Not anywhere close to the running back he needs to be this fall, Dyer said the toughest transition for him has been picking up the passing game and in particular blitzing 250-pound linebackers.

"It's a hard job learning the blitzes and how to read and where they are coming from," Dyer said. "It's just several different things you have to learn. It's a process. It's a short thing to learn but in a short period of time. It's just one thing I've had to work hard with."

With just under three weeks left until the season opener against Arkansas State on Sept. 4, Dyer said not only is he ready to show what he can do he's ready for the entire class to get on the field and begin to help the Tigers win games.

"I think you will understand why our whole class chose to come here," Dyer said. "Each and every one of the guys in our class has a specific getup about them. They are all good with great ability and are good people.

"Once you have good people with great athletic ability and you come together as a family, you only work harder with a family. I think that's what our freshman class brings. We've bonded as a unit and are ready to play hard at any time."

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