Cameron Artis-Payne finds running room for Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Cameron Artis-Payne said all along he could be an every-down back. Twenty-six carries, a career-high 177 yards rushing and some praise from his offensive coordinator sent a signal that he can be a man of his word.
Artis-Payne stepped out of Tre Mason's shadows in helping Auburn beat Arkansas 45-21 in the season-opener last Saturday.
"I thought he got stronger as the game went along, especially in that second half," said coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "I think our whole offense, running the ball, got stronger as the game went along."
Auburn ran deep against Arkansas, switching out its running backs and receivers, and even quarterbacks, and likely will again this Saturday against San Jose State.
Lashlee sees Artis-Payne and Corey Grant as running backs "1A and 1B right now." Lashlee pointed out Grant averaged 8.7 yards on his 10 carries.
"We’ll just continue to see how it plays out moving forward. I was really proud, more importantly, of how both of those guys finished runs. They fell forward just about every time they came into contact and Cameron really broke a lot of tackles."
Remember, Auburn led the nation in rushing last year, and put up good numbers to start the new year.
"Overall," said coach Gus Malzahn, "Cameron Artis-Payne did a great job with yards after contact, and did a great job protecting. I was very proud of Corey Grant with everything he did."
So there's a 1A and 1B. And there's redshirt freshman Peyton Barber, who had 19 yards on three carries late; and there's true freshman Roc Thomas, who didn't play, but is on track to play against San Jose State.
"Those other two guys will definitely be a factor," Malzahn said.
It just didn't happen against Arkansas.
"The way the game unfolded with Cam and Corey, that's just kind of how it went. But Roc is ready," Lashlee said. "There's nothing's wrong with him and he had a really good attitude after the game, so, hopefully, we'll get to see some of him soon."
And there's quarterback Nick Marshall. He played only in the second half and had only eight carries, but he was Auburn's second-leading rusher to Mason last season and figures to return to his offensive ways soon enough.
Auburn rolled up 302 yards rushing, 595 total for the game. But in the exacting standards of Auburn's offense, Lashlee said the execution was "a little above average."
Still, "We played well. We did not have a lot of busts. At the same time, we could have executed at a better level.
"I thought the O-line got better as the game went on. You've got guys like Shon Coleman playing his first full game in probably four years. You've got Avery Young playing his first game at right guard. Chad (Slade) moved over to the left, Pat (Miller) hasn't played since the fourth game of last year. I think it probably took them a half to kind of just get comfortable again because we were smart in fall camp with our starting five O-line and they didn't have as much live work as maybe they had in the past. I thought they graded out well, not exceptional, but obviously good enough to win."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine