Auburn Football: Why Onterio McCalebb Is a Lock for Paul Hornung Award

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Auburn Football: Why Onterio McCalebb Is a Lock for Paul Hornung Award
Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb has made the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, presented to the nation's most versatile player, and to call him a "lock" for the trophy is far from an exaggeration.

The SEC Digital Network confirmed the attention that McCalebb is getting.

The Hornung Award is fairly new to college football and wasn't introduced until 2010.

If you ask me, it's been a long time coming, as there have been many great players who displayed incredible versatility during their college careers. It's about time we recognize them.

I cannot think of a more versatile player in the nation than McCalebb. The guy can do it all on offense. Rushing, receiving, returning; all he does is gain yardage. I'd wager he could be an effective cornerback as well.

Some, including myself, credit McCalebb for opening up Auburn's historic offense in 2010.

The combination of quarterback Cam Newton and running back Michael Dyer was potent to begin with, but it was McCalebb that provided the X-factor needed to achieve ridiculous feats.

Those feats include hanging 65 points on Arkansas, beating Alabama in the biggest comeback in Iron Bowl history, winning one of the most lopsided SEC championship games ever and winning the national championship after a perfect undefeated season.

McCalebb isn't a one-hit wonder. He has been incredibly versatile since the 2009 season. I'll let his numbers do the talking.

  Rush Avg. Rec. Avg. K. Ret. Avg. Total Y/Play TD
2009 565 5.38 58 9.67 272 24.73 895 7.3 4
2010 810 8.53 86 12.29 227 28.38 1,123 10.2 10
2011 641 5.72 344 10.75 338 30.73 1,323 8.5 8

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Looking at the numbers, it is clear that McCalebb sticks to an upward trend. Even after losing the benefit of having Newton at quarterback, McCalebb improved his game in certain ways.

It wasn't until 2011 that he truly became a receiving threat. Even with his quarterbacks constantly floundering, McCalebb was second on the team with 32 receptions.

McCalebb's role is going to expand greatly in 2012. Michael Dyer is gone, but Auburn has a deep running back squad with Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and former Alabama running back Corey Grant.

He is going to be utilized heavily in the passing game and perimeter runs and occasionally between the tackles.

With fullback Jay Prosch playing for the Tigers, runs between the tackles are going to be a lot easier in 2012, and McCalebb will benefit immensely from Prosch's muscle.

Prosch's athleticism and strength will allow him to spring McCalebb for solid yardage outside the tackles as well.

The two are going to create a scary, yard-chomping combination.

McCalebb will also continue to shine on special teams, even with the new kickoff rules dictating kickoffs from the 35-yard line. The Tigers will need McCalebb's speed to make something happen from the end zone.

The versatility that McCalebb has displayed in the past will be even more apparent in 2012.

The difference between the 2011 and 2012 versions of the Tigers will be like night and day, and McCalebb is going to be one of the most important cogs in Auburn's offensive machine.

To say that McCalebb will accrue 1,600 or even 2,000 all-purpose yards would not be an exaggeration. If he does so, the Paul Hornung Award will be all his.

By the end of the 2012 season, Onterio McCalebb will be what Florida always wanted Chris Rainey to be.

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