Tre Mason burst onto the scene as a sophomore running back for Auburn last season, and was one of the Tigers’ few bright spots in the midst of a difficult 2012 season, but as good as he was in 2012, he should be exponentially better in 2013.
The quarterback position was a giant disaster last year, and even the biggest die-hard Auburn fan would have no trouble admitting that. Still, Mason was able to manage 1,002 yards on 5.9 yards per carry and eight touchdowns while sharing carries with NFL-bound Onterio McCalebb.
Now that McCalebb is gone to the next level, that only that leaves more carries for Mason to do his work, and I believe the quarterback play will be markedly better now that Gus Malzahn is back at Auburn.
He is reunited with quarterback, Kiehl Frazier, and this means more first downs, more scoring opportunities, and playing with a lead more often than in 2012. Not doing so then necessitated the Tigers to abandon the run game far too often.
Challengers to cut into Mason’s carries include four-star recruits Cameron Artis-Payne, who was one of the top two junior college running backs last season, and true freshman Payton Barber. Both are a bit thicker than heavier that Mason, who weighs 200-pounds. and they tip the scales at 215 and 210 pounds respectively.
I envision a scenario where Mason gets 220 carries, up from the 171 last year, and finishes with approximately 1,350 yards and 10-12 touchdowns. I think Artis-Payne will be the primary backup because of his experience, and will get around 75-100 carries, while Barber will be brought along slowly on 50 carries or so.
Collectively, all of the running backs will benefit from the new offensive approach and the projected improvement in quarterback play. Add that all together, and there is no chance that Auburn will have a repeat of 2012, when they finished No. 114 in scoring.
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