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Auburn's No. 1 rushing offense has options at Ole Miss
Oct. 31, 2014

Cameron Artis-Payne has found room to run for Auburn this season

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  This is about the time last season that Auburn couldn't help itself. 

It just kept giving the football to Tre Mason.

The tailback, who had 119 carries in the first seven games last year, had 198 carries in the final seven games on the way to a school-record 1,816 rushing yards. Now, a year later, Cameron Artis-Payne has more yards after seven games than Mason did in 2013. 

What will Auburn do next?

Artis-Payne had 25 carries for 167 yards in last Saturday's 42-35 win over South Carolina, and he'll carry that momentum, and his 831 yards as the SEC's second leading rusher, to Oxford for Saturday's 6 p.m. game between No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss. The Tigers will be running into one of the best defenses in the SEC: The Rebels are first in scoring defense, second in total defense and tied for fourth in rushing defense. Auburn will counter with the No. 1 rushing offense in the league.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says Artis-Payne is a "workhorse kind of guy." But there are players who can give him a breather. Roc Thomas, who had 13 carries in the first five games, and most of those came late in an easy win over San Jose State, has carried it 14 more times in the last two games. And then there's Corey Grant, who has 257 yards.

Oh, yeah. Auburn's second-leading rusher against South Carolina was receiver Ricardo Louis, who turned three carries into 102 yards and a touchdown. 

And not to be forgotten is quarterback Nick Marshall. If you're talking rushing, you're talking Marshall, who makes everything go from the zone-read, and, who in fact, is Auburn's second-leading rusher with 581 yards and a team-best seven touchdowns.

Thomas could be the next guy in the race.

"I think as we continue to go, having someone like Roc is a good change of pace," Lashlee said. "You saw the way he hits the hole on some of those. He was just a step away on a couple, and the same thing with Corey, getting him involved in different ways. I think it will keep them all fresh in the fourth quarter.

"Some games, one guy has got the hot hand more than the other and they'll get a few more carries in that game."

Like in the SEC Championship Game last season when Mason carried it 46 times for 306 yards.

"Tre got so almost-ridiculously hot toward the end of the year last year," Lashlee said. "We rode him probably more than you normally would. But the positive, the first six games of the year, Tre and Cap pretty much split time for the most part, and Corey ran the ball a lot. He was a little fresher at the end.

"Some of those games toward the end, Tre carried the ball a bunch of times and, hopefully, we can keep Cap fresh and still get those other guys involved. Both Corey and Roc have a lot of explosiveness to them if they get a crease."

Artis-Payne showed off his underrated speed against South Carolina.

"He was quicker this year than last year and faster," Lashlee said. "I think he did a good job of being more conscious of when it's there to bounce it on the perimeter. He ran hard and ran fast.

"He's as steady a player as we have on our football team. You can trust that Cap's going to show up every week. He's going to give you everything he's got. He's going to play hard. He's turned into a great short-yardage and goal-line running back. Now, if he can do what he did, whether it's get the ball on the perimeter some or even bounce the play on the perimeter, that really opens up our whole offense, but it also makes him a better all-around back."

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



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