Running back Tre Mason is the Heisman Trophy finalist and quarterback Nick Marshall is the triggerman that makes the offense click, but the third man in the multidimensional Auburn rushing attack who makes the whole thing tick is running back Corey Grant.
The native of nearby Opelika, Ala., and former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, is the man who typically provides the third option in the running game on the edge. He has 650 rushing yards on 65 carries—a mind-boggling 10 yards per carry—and six touchdowns on the season.
At 5'11", 205 pounds, Grant has incredible straight-line speed. When he comes on the jet sweep, all he needs is one block to make a defense pay, move those chains and perhaps hit a home run that could drastically change the game.
With all of the attention on Mason and Marshall in the running game, don't sleep on Grant having a big day in the title game with some long runs at key times for Auburn.
"Those guys are going to come out and they're going to play and play and play until you break," Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith was quoted as saying in a BCS National Championship Game (membership required) press release. "We've just got to go out and make sure we don't break."
Watch Grant in the clip below from the opener against Washington State:
The read-option look keeps the linebackers inside, wide receiver Sammie Coates (No. 18) gets blown up by safety Deone Bucannon (No. 20) but still does his job by simply getting in the way, and Grant beats cornerback Anthony Carpenter (No. 4) to the edge and breaks a long touchdown run.
He serves his role as a threat on the edge well, and plays the part that Onterio McCalebb once did in Malzahn's offense.
But the two are different backs. Grant is about 30 pounds heavier than McCalebb, and he packs a mean punch on the rare occasion he decides to lower his shoulder.
In this touchdown from the Georgia game, Grant gets loose in space and lowers his shoulder on safety Corey Moore (No. 39) shortly before crossing the goal line:
His success can be traced to scheme and speed, but it's accentuated by a power-blocking scheme.
In the clip above, fullback Jay Prosch and tight end Brandon Fulse got great blocks off the edge to spring Grant. This is something that's new for Prosch, who started his career in a more traditional system at Illinois.
"It changed when I got here this year because it's more there is some blocking like that, but most of it's like more, I guess, kind of finesse blocking at times," Prosch said according to the BCS National Championship Game (membership required) press release. "Just like running like coming around the edge and sealing linebackers, working up to DBs and having to be really careful with how hard you try to go at them, be able to have your weight on your heels and still be able to block them."
When Auburn runs speed sweeps with Grant, it typically does to the strong side. That will likely pit Prosch against "SAM" linebacker Christian Jones, who also drops down to defensive end at times for the Seminoles.
Watch that matchup, because when Auburn lulls the defense to sleep with the zone read up the middle, Grant will make his impact.
He has evolved into more of a changeup back, but one or two big runs in key spots could sting the Seminoles and put the Tigers in position to make a dent in the scoreboard.