Auburn Rushing Attack: Solid as a “Roc”


Sep 6, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back

Roc Thomas

(9) carries against the San Jose State Spartans during the second half at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers beat the Spartans 59-13. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Racean “Roc” Thomas is the newest addition to the Auburn Tigers backfield. With 6,169 career-rushing yards and 82 touchdowns at Oxford High School, “Roc” is looking to quickly contribute.

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Granted, the starting backs this year – Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant – will have the bulk of the workload. In 2013, Cameron Artis-Payne received 91 reps behind Corey Grant and Heisman finalist Tre Mason. He finished with 610 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Going into the bye week, Cameron Artis-Payne has 289 yards on 42 carries with four touchdowns. He also has two receiving attempts gaining 21 yards for the tigers. Corey Grant has contributed with 20 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown. He also has 12 yards receiving thus far. This year, CAP is averaging 6.9 yards per touch, while Grant is averaging 8.8. Also, don’t forget Peyton Barber and his 21 yards this season so far on five attempts.

However, I expect Roc Thomas to gain the confidence of the coaches through the next two games and become another weapon in the already stout Auburn rushing attack.

The true freshman saw his first action Saturday against San Jose State. He had nine attempts, 51 yards, and a touchdown, which I would say was a great start to a bright future for No. 9.

Thomas has drawn comparisons to Cadillac Williams. When you look at the forceful back on his highlight tape, as seen on HUDL, those comparisons aren’t as presumptuous as they may seem.

It will be almost seamless how coach Gus Malzahn can implement Thomas into the offense. Much like CAP, Thomas is the prime candidate for short yardage situations. After viewing his highlights you can see that smash-mouth football is his specialty and is a north/south runner.

When you have a back that is quick, elusive, and continues to contribute power after contact, that will only build confidence in the offense. Roc did just that in 2013, earning the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s “Mr. Football” Award. Not to mention, he was also the 2013 Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year.

There is no question that there are high expectations for the freshman, but only advancing through the season will give us reassurance of the hype surrounding him.

It is almost trivial to think of the full potential and space that Gus has to work with. Everyone has a chance to keep their legs fresh. On the flipside, when a back gets hot there is an opportunity to shine.

The Auburn rushing attack is on pace to have matching statistics to last season. What maybe scary to the rest of the league is… it may be better.

Auburn ranks tenth nationally in rushing yards so far this season, but I see this to change when higher ranking teams get into the meat of their schedules. When October rolls around, the Tigers will receive defensive looks that will both allow and test the potent rushing unit.

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  • When preparing for the Kansas State Wildcats an emphasis will be set for the ground game. The Wildcats only allowed 2.8 yards per rush against the Iowa State Cyclones, but allowed 214 yards through the air.

    This game may seem as something big for the Tigers, a “trap game” of sorts. When I look further into the stats of the previous game for the Wildcats, I see that the Cyclones are 111th in the country in rushing. Granted there has only been two games played this season, but does the country think that Kansas State is ready for this type of offense?

    Auburn has both a conference and non-conference win under their belts, just like the Wildcats. Points per game are what separate the two teams. Auburn has handled their opponents, not giving up the lead yet this season. Kansas State had to re-group in the fourth quarter versus a weak Iowa State team to get the win.

    Being a top 10 team on the road scares fans, regardless of the situation at hand, and Thursday night games are even tougher. Remember, Auburn lost to the West Virginia Mountaineers on a Thursday night in 2008.

    I believe the game will start slow, but when stamina kicks into play after halftime, the Tigers should be in control.

    Tune in to ESPN on Thursday September 18 at 7:30 ET to check out the non-conference matchup.