In 2010, Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb averaged a school record 8.5 yards per carry. While McCalebb rushed for 169 fewer yards in 2011 (on 17 more carries), his production as a receiver increased dramatically—from 86 yards on seven catches in 2010 to 344 yards on 32 catches last season.
With new coordinators on both sides of the ball, the 2012 season holds considerable intrigue for Auburn fans. One question on their minds is: What will be the role of Onterio McCalebb in new coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense?
We can attempt to answer this question by looking at Loeffler’s one previous season as an offensive coordinator, at Temple in 2011.
Last season, Temple’s offense featured the running ability of Bernard Pierce, who rushed for 1,481 yards and 27 TDs on 273 carries. Pierce regularly lined up behind a fullback and ran between the tackles. At the same time, he possessed sufficient speed and agility to run effectively when bouncing outside and occasionally ran wide by design.
In Loeffler’s 2012 Auburn offense, Pierce’s duties will be split between Tre Mason, who is expected to do more inside running, and McCalebb, who will carry the ball on outside runs. Much has been said about the fact that Loeffler’s scheme features an I-back formation, but, of course, the key to his offense is that it employs multiple formations.
Last year Temple frequently used a spread formation and ran the same type of zone reads with which McCalebb had so much success in 2010. Look for McCalebb to once again maximize this type of opportunity to run outside.
Tre Mason recently commented, when discussing what to expect from Loeffler’s offense, “You might see me or Onterio out at receiver a little bit.” (via Joel Erickson of War Eagle Extra).
My expectation is that McCalebb will line up as a receiver more than just “a little bit.” As noted above, McCalleb has proven his effectiveness as a pass catcher. Personnel alignments that position his playmaking ability outside the backfield will prevent defenses from—or make them pay for—zeroing in on Mason, who will often seem an obvious hand off recipient when lined up behind 6'0", 253-pound fullback Jay Prosch.
In short, McCalebb’s main function in Loeffler’s offense will be to provide versatility and unpredictability. His impact will be greatest, of course, if Loeffler is able to get the ball into McCalleb’s hands in ways unforeseen even by opposing defensive coordinators, let alone by anyone else.