Cameron Artis-Payne is ready to go in 2014 at Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are the co-starting running backs at Auburn, so shared carries seem to be the order of the day.
But on the day Auburn pulls a Tre Mason, say, letting one of them be the workhorse like Mason was in the SEC title game last year, they stand ready for action.
"I’m built to last," said Artis-Payne. "I'm not worried about that. I can do that. Twenty times a game that isn't anything. We can do that."
Mason established himself as the go-to tailback last year, carrying it 317 times, rushing for 1,816 yards and winning a spot in the NFL Draft. That was after receiving special notice for his 46 carries for 304 yards in Auburn's win over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Mason left behind Artis-Payne and Grant. Now, Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber have joined the mix.
Artis-Payne came to Auburn last season from a California junior college where he rushed for 2,048 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. Last season at Auburn, he rushed for 610 yards on 91 carries, most of which came early in the season. He's waited for this opportunity.
"You always got to believe in yourself, so I believe I can be the guy," Artis-Payne said. "That’s up the coaching staff and what they feel is working and being effective. At the end of the day it’s about the team, not just one individual player."
Grant is the faster and smaller of the two.
"I feel like we add a lot to the offense," Artis-Payne said. "As everybody knows, Corey runs a 4.1. You don't find that everywhere."
And as far as Artis-Payne goes, "I look at back when I was getting recruited, I did it all."
“The good thing is with Cameron and Corey," says offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, "you feel like you’ve got two quality senior every-down backs in our league. Corey, I think, has definitely developed into an every-down kind of back. I definitely feel the same way about Cam. I think Cam is faster than he was last year. They are both really good in pass protection. They are seniors and they come to work so you can trust them."
Auburn could divide the carries equally or play the hot hand. The coaches will have to figure that out.
"There's a lot of different dimensions I think we can add to this offense," Artis-Payne said.
The wildcard may be Thomas, the true freshman who has impressed.
"He’s really good. Explosive, he’s quick, he has good speed, he’s everything he’s advertised to be," Artis-Payne said. "He’ll be a real good player here, I know that."
And there's the comfort of playing in the second year of Gus Malzahn's offense.
"It's helped tremendously," Artis-Payne said. "We’re a lot further along just in the execution."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine