Auburn junior running back Tre Mason, who set single-season school records in rushing yards and touchdowns this year, will skip his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. Mason announced his decision at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The news doesn't come as much of a surprise, as Mason is expected to be selected in either the second or third round of the 2014 draft. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay likes Mason's attributes and said the running back likely wouldn't improve his stock by returning for another year of college football.
"There are always small things you can improve upon in your game," McShay said. "I don't think there's going to be a huge jump in terms of how he's running, his patience or his vision."
"I've been really impressed with his vision, and the way he's able to accelerate off his initial cut," McShay said. "He's running hard. ... I've been really impressed with how he's stepped up in the biggest games."
Mason had a phenomenal 2013 season for Auburn, rushing for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns. After spending much of the season under the radar, he closed out with a bang. In the Tigers' tough BCS Championship Game loss to Florida State, he ran for 195 yards and one touchdown on 34 carries and added another score through the air. In Auburn's final three games against Alabama, Missouri and FSU, three of the nation's to rushing defenses, he carried 109 times for 663 yards and six TDs, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 221.0 per game.
For his efforts, Mason was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press and the conference's coaches. He finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting, making his way to New York as a finalist.
While replacing Mason won't be easy, Auburn has a talented stable of running backs to pick up the slack in 2014. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, both of whom made significant contributions this year, will be back. A couple of new faces, redshirt freshman Peyton Barber and true freshman Roc Thomas, will have a chance to make an impact, too.