With the three-way battle between Cameron Artis-Payne, Peyton Barber and Corey Grant showing no clear signs of separation through spring practices, the annual A-Day Game will be a great chance for the running backs to make a big impression in front of thousands of Auburn fans.
Artis-Payne was the Lionel James Offensive MVP from last year's A-Day, compiling 164 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown. After a breakout performance as a newcomer to the program in last year's game, the powerful senior running back sounds confident in his hopes of repeating as MVP on Saturday.
"I definitely have a shot at that," Artis-Payne told AL.com's Brandon Marcello. "I don't think I'm going to need as many touches as I did last year."
Neither Grant nor Barber, a redshirt freshman who continues to impress in his move from scout team to first team, participated in last year's A-Day Game. Grant, a former transfer from Alabama, said he is looking forward to competing against fellow senior Artis-Payne for the MVP award.
"I think [Artis-Payne] can be [MVP], but I'm going to be right at his neck," Grant said, also per Marcello. "Because, you know, last year I didn't to get to play in it, so I'm kind of excited about this year."
The third week of spring practice ended with some surprising movement across Auburn's offensive line, which originally featured just the battle for the starting left tackle job.
Patrick Miller, who was battling cancer survivor Shon Coleman at left tackle, moved to right tackle, where he started the first five games of 2013. Returning starter Avery Young moved inside to right guard for some reps in the Thursday practice and Saturday scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
However, head coach Gus Malzahn cleared up the offensive line shuffle earlier this week, telling reporters the nonpermanent moves were all about building depth across Auburn's veteran front five.
“We’re trying to develop depth at different positions this spring,” Malzahn said, per the Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington. “Especially when you got a lot of veteran guys, you can move some guys around to see what depth looks like and kind of play the what-ifs if you go through injuries next fall.”
After all the offensive-line switches and explanations, the focus will return to the left tackle spot on A-Day. Keep an eye on the battle between Coleman and Miller at A-Day and how the coaching staff will divide the first-team left tackle snaps between the two offensive linemen.