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Auburn Football Spring Preview: Tigers Look To Utilize All Running Backs

Tiger HistalmosAnalyst IFebruary 25, 2010

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 27:  Mario Fannin #27 of the Auburn Tigers against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 27, 2009 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This is the third article in a series on the Auburn Tigers's upcoming spring practice.  Today, we look at the running backs.

If there has been one position that has been consistently one of the best at Auburn, it has to be the running back.

We all know the greats that have ran across the field inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Ben Tate added his name to the long list of running backs that have thrown on that familiar blue jersey. 

With Tate gone, five other running backs could see playing time.  You can also bet that all five will play significant roles in the offense come next season.

Mario Fannin:

Fannin was the jack of all trades last season.  He rushed 34 times for 285 yards, caught 42 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns.  He also ran back 14 kickoff returns, averaging 21.2 yards per return. 

Head coach Gene Chizik has already come out and said Fannin will be in the mix for the tailback position. 

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Fannin has a bit more power in his runs.  He doesn't mind the contact and fighting for extra yards.  He also was a favorite target underneath when the quarterback was under pressure from blitzes. 

If Fannin is to get the nod for the position, it'll be because of his ability to pound it between the tackles. 

Onterio McCalebb:

McCalebb was the hot craze coming into the 2009 season.  He was as good as advertised, leaving defenders to eat his dust as he passed by them. 

McCalebb rushed 105 times for 565 yards and four touchdowns.  His strength is turning the corner on the outside and using his quick burst of speed to outrun defenders.

Injuries to his ankle hurt his numbers later on in the season.  He also avoided contact when he could due to his nagging injuries. 

McCalebb was the lightest back last season at 164 pounds.  He said after the Outback Bowl that his goal was to add on 30-40 pounds during the offseason. 

McCalebb's strengths is running to the outside and getting into space.  He is also a viable target from the backfield if needed.  Expect McCalebb's role to expand this coming season. 

Eric Smith:

Smith found himself in some trouble off the field to start the 2009 season.  He managed to come back mainly as a backfield/slot receiver.  He caught 18 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown. 

This upcoming season, Smith has a great chance to be the main running back.  Smith, like the others, has a different but effective style.  Smith can turn on the jets when needed and slip through defenders, but he also has the power to move defenders.

It has been said that Smith has some of the surest hands on the team.  This will make him a continuous threat on screens and underneath passes. 

Dontae Aycock:

Aycock red shirted last season, but he has been billed as one of the top recruits from last year.  

As a senior at Chamberlin High School, he rushed 169 times for 1,406 yards and 28 touchdowns. 

Chizik has already come out earlier this week saying that Aycock will become the "jack of all trades" type back this season.  Aycock will also get a shot at the tailback position as well. 

It seems that Aycock will be immediately used this coming season in some form or fashion. 

John Douglas:

Douglas played sparingly during the 2009 season.  He was listed as the back up to Fannin in the H-back position. 

Douglas was recruited as a fullback from Augusta, Georgia back in 2007.  Though not carrying the ball much, he does come in on blocking assignments. 

Douglas can pound the ball in his own right at 6' 2" and 241 pounds.  One will have to see how he does this spring. 

The fun part with all of these players is where they may end up in the backfield.  They literally could play all the positions and really confuse the defense. 

Fannin and McCalebb have to be the favorites to run the ball from tailback, while Smith, Aycock, and Douglas could see time at the H-back position.  Don't count out Smith from tailback though.  

These players have skill sets that vary and will work well for Chizik and his staff. 

Another group that should have options for the quarterback is the wide receivers. 

Next time, the wide receivers will be put in the limelight.

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