Last week’s announcement that running back Tre Mason is leaving the Auburn Tigers for the NFL opens the door for another running back to step into that spot. And, from the way the Tigers’ offense was running at the end of the year, that spot could certainly be one that allows a runner to pile up big numbers.
Cameron Artis-Payne figures to be the featured back for the Tigers in 2014. As Mason’s backup in 2013, Artis-Payne rushed for 610 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and six touchdowns for the Tigers, who lost in the BCS National Championship Game to the Florida State Seminoles.
Artis-Payne, a junior college transfer, saw his carries limited as the season went on and Mason became more of a force. In 2014, Artis-Payne looks to be the featured back, while fellow senior-to-be Corey Grant can enter the game and provide a change of pace from the running back position.
Auburn’s offense led the nation in rushing in 2013, and with Gus Malzahn getting exactly what he wanted out of his offensive scheme, that trend could very well continue in 2014. Artis-Payne figures to be the beneficiary.
Nick Marshall will return to run the offense for the Tigers, and his experience in running the read option should only help Artis-Payne and Grant become productive backs. Perhaps not as productive as the super-talented Mason, but in this offense, running backs are going to continue to rack up plenty of yards.
Artis-Payne will be given the chance to prove that he is the guy in spring practice. And if he is clearly the featured back for 2014, expect him to put up monster numbers for the Tigers.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.