Auburn Football: Five Tigers Key to a Victory in the Outback Bowl

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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

Roc Thomas

Senior running back Cameron Artis-Payne is the SEC’s leading rusher and is knocking on the door of 1,500 yards for the season. Another senior, Corey Grant, is listed ahead of Roc Thomas on the depth chart, but the coaching staff may want to get a closer look at the true freshman in the Outback Bowl.

Thomas has actually been credited with two starts in the last three games – being on the field for the first offensive plays against rivals Georgia and Alabama. Of course, he was also responsible for not covering a backwards pass against the Crimson Tide that was quickly converted into an Alabama touchdown.

Overall, Thomas has played in 11 games this year and is the team’s fourth leading rusher in with 214 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries, behind Artis-Payne, senior quarterback Nick Marshall and Grant, respectively. Therefore, Thomas will be Auburn’s leading returning rusher in 2015 by default.

And, he can use the Outback Bowl to get a jump start on next season and take an early lead in the upcoming competition to be the Tigers’ primary ball carrier. Junior college transfer Jovon Robinson and commit Kerryon Johnson are expected to be in the mix as well, but only Thomas will have an opportunity to show what he can do in Tampa.

The 5-foot-11, 202-pound Thomas also should factor in as a kick returner. Grant and wide receiver Ricardo Louis have handled the bulk of the kickoff duties this year, but Thomas has 43 return yards on three returns this season.

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