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The Future of Running Back at Running Back U

Could Auburn redshirt freshman Mike Blakely be the next great Tiger running back?
Could Auburn redshirt freshman Mike Blakely be the next great Tiger running back?

There are changes coming to Auburn's offense for 2012. With the hiring of a new offensive coordinator, the Tigers will likely take on a new look. And for the fifth consecutive year Auburn will have a Quarterback race in the spring.

Questions abound on whether Clint Mosley can hold on to the position or whether Kiehl Frazier will finally measure up to his pre college hype. Some expect incoming freshman Zeke Pike to make a push for the driver's seat.

The quarterback race is not the only position to watch however, when the spring rolls around. Another question, second only to who will be the No.1 QB is, "Who will take Mike Dyer's place as the workhorse for the running game?"

Dyer was All-SEC, had back to back 1,000 yard seasons, and broke Bo Jackson's freshmen season rushing record. While Auburn will have plenty of depth at the position, he will be a tough act to follow.

During his two years on the Plains, it looked like he was poised to place his name at the top of the list of Auburn's all time greats - names such as Frederickson, Fullwood, Bo, and Cadillac. However, Dyer decided to scuttle those plans with his decision to transfer to Arkansas State.

Now that he is gone, who will be next to take up the mantle of No.1 running back at Running Back U?

Will it be senior Onterio McCalebb?

It would be safe to say Onterio is a fan favorite. He has blazing speed and the ability to break a game open in a single play. There have been times he has had success running the ball inside.

Yet at 5'11", 175lbs. the question still remains about his ...

... ability to be an every day back and take the constant pounding between the tackles. The MVP of the Chik-fil-a Bowl, he has 2,016 career rushing yards with 18 touchdowns.

Will it be sophomore Tre Mason?

Mason didn't see the field that much in 2011 as a running back but he shined in the Chik-fil-a Bowl with 64 yards and a touchdown. As the (Rivals) No.14 running back in the nation coming out of Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Fla. he ran for over 4,600 yards and scored 68 touchdowns.

At 5'10", 200lbs. he may be able to handle the inside game better but he needs to improve his ability to pass block and catch passes. He dropped a few this year. He is an outstanding kick off specialist and the potential dual threat of him and McCalebb on kickoff returns could be a problem for opponents.

Will it be freshman Jovan Robinson?

Jovan is a solid AU recruit from Memphis, Tennessee who is prepared to sign with Auburn on February 1st. At 6'1" and 220 lbs. many think the impact of the T.J. Yeldon defection will be negated with Robinson joining the Tigers' rotation.

He scored 75 Touchdowns and had 4,900 yards rushing at Wooddale. He doesn't have the speed of an Onterio McCalebb but he is built to take and deliver punishing blows. Videos of his high school games reveal a player that is extremely hard to bring down.

A quote from the Rivals site says, "Some recruiting analyst have called Jovan the most college ready 2012 football prospect in the state of Tennessee."

Will it be red shirt sophomore Corey Grant?

Grant, an Opelika graduate was ranked his senior year as the state's top running back by both Rivals and Scout and was listed as the No. 5 all purpose back in the nation. The 5'11" 194lb. running back won both the 100-meter and 200-meter state championships while at Opelika.

He transferred last year from Alabama and because of NCAA rules had to spend the 2011 season on the scout team. He received the Scout Team Player of the Year Award for his outstanding work. Coach Luper believes he has great potential.

Will it be red shirt freshman Mike Blakely?

Blakely transferred in from Florida in 2010 and had to sit out a year. Ranked by Rivals as the No.6 running back in the nation coming out of high school, he is expected to contribute early.

His physical resemblance to Dyer is almost uncanny both in build and looks. Also like Dyer he has strong legs that keep moving after he takes a hit and again like Dyer he tends to fall forward when he is stopped.

Blakely, 5'9", 198lbs. ran for close to 3,000 yards and scored 39 touchdowns the last two years of high school despite ankle and shoulder injuries. Reports are that he is a good blocker with good hands. I'm not a handicapper but the dossier on Blakely makes him look like the perfect fit to step in to Dyer's shoes.

Will it be someone else?

Auburn also has junior Anthony Morgan returning and there is always the possibility that another back might still be inked on national signing day. However, Morgan 5'11' 195lbs.was converted from defensive back to running back in 2010 and may be returning to the other side of the ball next year.

At any rate, the Auburn offense will look different in 2012. The backfield may have a different quarterback, a different power back, with McCalebb handling sweeps and being even more involved in the passing game.

In addition, it looks increasingly like the new offensive coordinator may come from the Pro ranks. At least that's what one might take from a statement made by one of the Auburn recruits regarding a conversation he had with Coach Chizik this week.

Four star wide receiver Jaquay Williams said Chizik told him, "It's going to be a little bit of the same. Four receivers. Three receivers ... It'll be more a little pro style. It's going to be good."

Whether the new coordinator brings a pro style or a hybrid spread attack, the Tigers have to have a running back that can carry the heavy load. Who that will be is any body's guess. But rest assured there is enough hoss's in the stable to get the job done. The only question is ...

Who will be the next great running back at Running Back U?