Auburn Football: With Mike Dyer in Spotlight, Speedy Backup RB Could Dominate

Nathan Deal@@NateDawgAUCorrespondent IMay 9, 2011

Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb runs against the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game. Auburn won, 22-19.
Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb runs against the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game. Auburn won, 22-19.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The iconic images are still fresh in the minds of college football fans, and Auburn fans in particular. It's the BCS National Championship Game. Auburn is tied with Pac-10 upstart Oregon in the most unexpected BCS Title Game ever. 19-19 is the score.

Auburn had the ball with about 2:30 to go in the fourth quarter and took over at the 25-yard line. The Tigers had the chance to end the 53-year drought since they had last won a national title—all the way back in 1957. There had been countless near-misses like 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004. Now, with the ball in Cam Newton's hands, that looked like it would come to an end.

It did, but Heisman-winning Cam Newton was not the star of the drive. After completing a 15-yard pass to Emory Blake to move the Tigers to the 40-yard line, Newton never threw another pass in his Auburn uniform.

He didn't have to.

On first-and-10, Newton gave the ball to freshman RB Mike Dyer, who was brought down after gaining five yards. But he rolled over the defender and was never down. He got up, and after a split second of confusion, he took off and made it all the way to the Oregon 23-yard line.

Three plays later, with the Tigers facing third-and-four at the 18-yard line with 16 second left, Dyer again provided the big play for Auburn. He exploded through the middle of the Oregon defense and rolled over an Oregon defender for what was originally called a touchdown.

It would be overturned after a review, but those two big runs led to Wes Byrum's game-winning field goal that delivered the crystal ball to the Plains.

Confetti streamed from the ceilings at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Depressed Duck fans left their seats and began their sad trek back to Eugene while Auburn fans, who accounted for about 70 percent of the attendance, partied like there was no tomorrow.

Well, that was in January. Now it's May. For those Auburn fans partying that night, here's some news: It's tomorrow.

With over 30 players from the championship roster gone for the 2011 season, Auburn is in nobody's mind a contender for the national championship. But people do believe that, despite losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, the Tigers are in fact home to a superstar.

Dyer, the already-legendary running back whose 143 rushing yards in the BCS Title Game were huge, is expected by most media to be the workhorse for the Tigers in coming years. Some have gone so far to say as Dyer would be the entire offense next year. Dyer this, Dyer that.

But here's some news for you: Dyer isn't the only good player on the Auburn offense. Nor is he the only good running back.

No attention is given to scat-back Onterio McCalebb. McCalebb outgained and outscored Mike Dyer last year. McCalebb is faster than Dyer and is good on kick-off returns. He scored the game-winning TD against LSU last year, and scored thrice in the Tigers' 49-31 win over Georgia as well.

So why is McCalebb overlooked?

The nation is so high on Mike Dyer's performance against Oregon that they're overlooking a RB who averaged 8.8 yards per carry last year and scored 10 TDs.

Is Dyer a star? Absolutely. But what people need to realize is that Auburn's offense in 2011 won't be "Stopping Dyer means Stopping Auburn." If you pay too much attention to Dyer, don't be surprised when you look to your right and see Onterio McCalebb and his ridiculous mohawk running down the sideline.

Patrick Peterson knows what I'm talking about, right?

Do you want to know how fast McCalebb is? He's so fast that, according to several teammates and classmates, they jokingly dared him to chase a squirrel. He did, and he actually caught the squirrel. Some students joke that, should McCalebb ever be a musician, his first song would be "I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It."

Can defenses across the country really ignore a player that has been proven to score game-winning touchdowns and catch squirrels? According to most mainstream media, exactly.

Onterio McCalebb might just be college football's most overlooked player.


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