Aug. 9, 2013
Tim Horton coaches them up at practice (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala — He inherited a 1,000-yard rusher in Tre Mason, brought in the No. 1 junior college tailback in Cameron Artis-Payne, has a speedster in Corey Grant and has two freshmen who could play a factor.
Auburn running backs coach>Tim Horton has a lot of options at tailback this fall, and he's not sure how he's going to divide the carries, other than to say the worthy will win the day.
"I think that's still to be determined," he said Friday. "I think you've got to earn the right to get carries. Hopefully, we've got a lot of guys who will earn the right to get carries."
No matter what, Horton isn't going to run his running backs into the ground.
"I don't see us being a team that will give the ball to a guy 30 times in a game. I don't see us having one guy that is so head-and-shoulders above everybody else," he said. "I can see it being three or four guys will get to run the ball."
Horton says the first eight practices have produced favorable results. He'll look more in Saturday's scrimmage in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"The two things you probably look for starting out are attitude and effort. There are probably five main guys we've been working with, but their attitudes have been terrific," he said. "And their effort has been great. I think we have a chance to be a really good group."
Auburn knows what it has in Mason, who finished with 1,002 yards last season. The Tigers are also impressed with Artis-Payne, the offensive MVP of the spring A-Day Game.
"He's been impressive," Horton said. "He's in a little bit better shape right now that he was in the spring. His speed and quickness have improved. He's got a chance to be one of the better backs in our league. And the thing I really like about Cam is he's really good as a pass protector. He's as good as we've got, and, really, as good as I've ever been around."
And that's a bonus for a head coach such as Gus Malzahn, a man who values players willing to do what he calls the "dirty work," like when his receivers block down field.
Mason and Artis-Payne could be ticketed for the traditional tailback role with newcomer Peyton Barber backing them up. Auburn could utilize Grant and newcomer Johnathan Ford at positions that would feature their speed, such as Onterio McCalebb's old job.
Horton said Ford has "tremendous speed. I think he'll be one of the faster players on the team, and has shown the ability to make a play. He's going to have a good future here.
"He and Corey Grant are guys who can get some speed on the perimeter. We feel real good about him right now."
The Tigers are looking for the right role for Grant.
Corey Grant is a wonderful teammate. He's very unselfish. He's a team-first guy," Horton said. "I think you'll see his role expanded on special teams this year. When he's gotten the ball in scrimmages, he's done very well. I think compared to what he's done in the past, I think you'll see No. 20 on the field a little bit more."
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine