Position Previews: Running backs
This is the second feature of the 2012 position previews, if you haven’t yet read the Quarterback previews, click here.
Auburn has never lacked talent at the position, but this year the area looks a bit unsure. Last season, Auburn had only two true tailbacks in Dyer and Mason, alongside the speed option in McCalebb. Going into 2012, Dyer is gone and Mason and McCalebb are another year older.
McCalebb isn’t your every down type of back but he is a threat on the outside with killer speed. It’s still a but unclear how Loeffler plans to use him in his downhill offence. Mason is a bit bigger at 205 pounds, and is a bit more suited to be an in-between the tackles back. You have to think he is the favourite to start going into 2012.
But what about the newcomers?
Two running backs transferred to Auburn last summer — Former Alabama signee Corey Grant and Florida signee Mike Blakely. Both of which had to sit out the 2011 season, but should make some sort of impacts in the fall camp. Grant left Alabama for Auburn, and had to pay his own way here. He had some good reviews in spring training, but didn’t make a very big impression in the spring game.
Blakely, however, did stand out in the spring game, and could be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Blakely is about 5’9 205, and has shown tremendous cutting ability which gives him an advantage over Grant. Both of these players transferred to play in Malzahn’s spread offence, but since Loeffler arrived they have worked harder to get bigger and stronger, something which will be key to their playing time in 2012.
Then there is freshman Jovon Robinson, who vowed to work his butt off after TJ Yeldon de-committed from Auburn weeks before signing day, his attitude alone might help him make a big impact at Auburn. Robinson is the biggest back on the roster, as he stands at about 6’0 215. His high school tape is impressive, he’s sharp with his cuts, and is hard to tackle. Doesn’t have killer speed, but many big backs don’t.
What to expect
It’s murky for sure, but in terms of carries, the advantage might be towards Mason and McCalebb. Mason is the most experienced between-the-tackles back on the roster, so his experience might help himself from game 1. He capped off his freshman year with a decent Chick-Fil-A bowl performance, and will try to build on that this season. But the door will definitely be left open for everyone to step up and make an impression – like I said, it’s unclear.
Auburn may miss Dyer since he’s a very talented player, but there is plenty of talent on the roster, albeit unproven. Someone needs to step up and become Loeffler’s no1 guy, and I’d rather we find out sooner rather than later.