By Jay Coulter
Brad Lester has had enough frustration to last a lifetime. For the past two years the talented junior tailback has had plenty of opportunities to take over the starting job. But each time he had it in his grasp, it slipped right through, always because of injury.
This year is supposed to be different. After filling in admirably for the often injured Kenny Irons last year, most believed the job would be his in 2007 – no questions asked. But if you listen to Tommy Tuberville and other coaches, they are not ready to name Lester the starter just yet.
Yes this is a common coaching tactic used before the start of each season. Make the presumed starter believe the job is not 100% locked up and he’ll work harder. We get that. But something tells us this situation is a little different.
Tuberville recently told Inside The Auburn Tigers that his backfield would be by committee.
"We are still running by committee. We don’t have a true starter," said Tuberville.
"The guy who made the biggest move in terms of spring practice was Mario Fannin, although he did get injured," Tuberville said.
During SEC Media Days, Tuberville said that Lester had put on weight and that was a good sign. He’d like to see Lester be able to carry the ball 20-25 times a game. The obvious question coaches have is whether or not he can stay healthy.
Mario Fannin no doubt established himself as the top candidate to replace Lester should he go down or not get the job done. Last week at a local Auburn club meeting, offensive line coach Hugh Nall said Fannin was a special player that had a chance to be an impact player this year.
Also waiting in the wings is Ben Tate, who also had a solid spring. Tate showed flashes of brilliance last year in games against Buffalo, Tulane and Arkansas State. True, that’s not SEC caliber defenses, but his performance bodes well for the future.
It’s not far fetched to believe that Auburn will be better at tailback this season than in 2006. With Irons gone to the NFL, don’t be surprised to see someone emerge as an All-SEC performer this season. The question remains, will it be Brad Lester. Stay tuned.