Depth Chart: Auburn Running Backs


Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (44) runs against the Missouri Tigers for a touchdown during the third quarter of the 2013 SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It is never easy to replace a running back that rushes for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns, sets a school single-season record with 2,374 all-purpose yards and is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Especially at Auburn.

Last season, Tre Mason exploded onto the national scene as he ran for 100 yards or more in nine of his last eleven games – including an eye-popping 304-yard performance against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. But, the man that broke Bo Jackson’s single-season rushing record is now a member of the St. Louis Rams.

Who will step up to take his place?

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There is no official pecking order yet, but heading into fall camp, the heir apparent appears Cameron Artis-Payne. The senior had 91 rushing attempts for 610 yards and six touchdowns last season, and at 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, is built slightly bigger than Mason.

Sep 21, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Corey Grant (20) against the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Auburn 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Artis-Payne was in the rotation last season, but he did most of his damage against inferior competition – rushing for 102 yards against Arkansas State, 133 against Western Carolina, and 93 yards against Florida Atlantic. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native did have a big 21-yard touchdown against Missouri that put the game out of reach, but he touched the ball only once against Florida State. In the spring game, Artis-Payne had 97 rushing yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

The next option among returning Auburn running backs is Corey Grant. The senior was used less as a traditional tailback last season for the Tigers, instead playing in the slot as a speed sweep option. The role served him well, as Grant averaged an astounding 9.8 yards per carry last season, which led the nation.

Like Artis-Payne, Grant did his best work against non-conference opponents, including a 146-yard performance in the season opener against Washington State. Also like his teammate, Grant scored against Missouri, but only had one carry in the BCS National Championship Game. The Opelika native has top-end speed, and showed it off in the spring game with 128 rushing yards. Expect Gus Malzahn and staff to find ways to get the ball into the speedster’s hands in 2014.

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Third on the depth chart entering fall camp is redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. Listed at 225 pounds, Barber is the team’s heaviest returning tailback, and could be a solid option near the goal line. He will compete with true freshman Roc Thomas for carries. Thomas is an exciting prospect that earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the state of Alabama as a high schooler. Fellow recruit Kamryn Pettway may also contribute this fall.

Though not officially listed as a running back, Ricardo Louis had 198 yards on 19 carries last season. He often played in the slot like Grant, and offers another dynamic to the rushing attack. Other backs listed on the roster include Damian Lewis, Patrick Lymon, Lawyer Tillman, and Andrew Williams.

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While the loss of Mason will get the most attention, there is another valuable member of the backfield that will be missed. Fullback/H-back Jay Prosch only touched the ball five times last season, none coming on carries out of the backfield, however he was a vital piece of Auburn’s offensive puzzle.

It will be interesting to see who will replace Prosch. The Tigers utilized him all over the field, and the role carries a lot of responsibilities. There are constant motions and shifts pre-snap, then varying blocking assignments that must be mastered in order to spring Auburn running backs for big gains.

The early leader is Brandon Fulse, a senior tight end. Fulse is currently listed second behind CJ Uzomah at tight end, and both are likely to see the field at the same time. Others that saw time at H-back this spring include Gage Batten and Patrick Young. Also, listed Pettway as a fullback coming out of high school.

Who would you like to see emerge as the primary ball carrier among current Auburn running backs? Let us know in the comments below.