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No starting running back? No problem, says Gus Malzahn

April 25, 2014

Corey Grant leads the way at Auburn's A-Day Game (Zach Bland photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Spring practice has come and gone, and still Gus Malzahn doesn't know who is No. 1 running back will be this fall.  

Not to worry. 

"This time last year we really didn't know, either," he said this week. 

The Auburn coach found a running back quick enough last August in Tre Mason, and all he did was set a school rushing record with 1,816 yards. 

He's gone, soon to the NFL, but this season's Auburn contenders are the familiar Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. Malzahn has also name-dropped this week incoming freshman Roc Thomas as a player who could contribute this year. 

Last seen, Grant rushed for a game-best 128 yards and a touchdown on only five carries in last Saturday's A-Day Game. He had 647 yards last season, averaging a snappy 9.8 yards per carry. Artis-Payne went for 610 yards, at 6.8 yards per carry. Barber spent half the season with the scout team during his redshirt season. He was carted off the field after suffering an ankle injury last Saturday. Malzahn said he'd be fine. 

The rusher not on the list? He's the quarterback. Nick Marshall was second on the team in rushing with 1,068 yards. 

"I think we've got some depth," Malzahn said. "We've got two seniors, and we've got Peyton Barber who I think has a chance to be really good; and then Roc Thomas, even though he's a freshman. We've had success in the past with true freshmen, at least when you hand him the ball.  We know he's extremely talented." 

That's the running backs, all of whom will work with Marshall, the dual-threat quarterback. 

Did somebody say quarterback? Malzahn offered this little tease: 

"You'll see us use Jeremy Johnson more than you did last year," he said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:
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