Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant
Roc Thomas, Peyton Barber
Jovon Robinson, Kerryon Johnson
Causes for Optimism:
It's a Gus Malzahn offense. How many times has he not had at least one running back rush for 1000+ yards?
I thought about just leaving this at that. It's really the only thing we need to feel optimistic. But then we go back to the #1 JUCO RB recruit in the nation coming in on top of Roc and Peyton Barber already garnering plenty of praise, and even Kerryon Johnson has gotten a lot of talk in the preseason came. Don't count out Johnson getting in some this season, too.
As long as the offensive line holds up as it has over the last two seasons, Auburn is going to find a running back that's able to find and hit a hole and gain yards. As long as they're gaining enough to get a first down every few carries, we're going to be good.
Last season, Cameron Artis-Payne was the work-horse. CAP was an excellent running back. He didn't have the break-away "take it to the house" speed as some running backs we've had in the past, but he did what Auburn needed him to do. This season we have a number of backs who are capable of that AND one or two who have that break-away ability. Sure, Corey Grant had it, but he was never really used as the primary back.
Oh, and none of the running backs fumbled during spring practice. At all. Even in general practice. And I haven't heard of any issues with that in the fall. So, hopefully that bodes well for the Tigers' ability to control the ball.
Causes for Concern:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It appears it will be a running back by committee situation at Auburn this season. Translation: They don't have a running back.</p>— Auburn Jokes™ (@AuburnJokes) <a href="https://twitter.com/AuburnJokes/status/637118614211006465">August 28, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Well, I guess we're done. Might as well pack it up. None of our running backs are any good, clearly.
Of course, there's the fact that Gus has gone by committee to start the season the past two years. He's going to see who is capable of playing the best, and then he's going to ride that horse.
There's always the chance we go with a committee approach the whole season. I've been on record MULTIPLE times saying that this is what I hope for. I want fresh legs ready to demoralize a defense in the second half.
The only real concern I have is how long it will take to figure out who the primary back is. Thankfully, I think the passing game will be good enough this season that we'll be able to take some struggles with the running game at times early on until we settle on a back. I just hope we figure it out before the LSU game.
At least one running back will run for over 1000 yards. I think it's going to be Roc Thomas. Another running back will be close to 1000, if not over themselves. Jeremy Johnson will account for some rushing yards, but this season it's mostly going to be on the backs. Don't be surprised if a receiver is fairly high on the rushing totals, too. I think it's going to be a wide receiver taking on the speed sweeps, this year.
Auburn is going to be more than fine at this position. It's probably the position I've been least worried about in all of these previews. The running back in a Malzahn offense is almost plug-and-play. If they have any small measure of talent, they're going to gain a lot of yards. And Auburn's running backs have a LOT of talent.