Auburn’s Three-Headed Rushing Attack

November 4, 2010

Auburn's running back by committee has the Tigers in National Championship contention


Although Cam Newton is the face of Auburn football, the Tigers boast a punishing three-headed rushing attack that has left defensive coordinators struggling to find ways to slow it down this season. However, what they’ve learned in the process is that you cannot stop it; you can only hope to try to find ways of containing it. Michael Dyer, Onterio McCalebb, and Mario Fannin are averaging over 5 yards per carry this season and have been instrumental in Auburn’s offensive success.  Although they have been consistent every week of the season, last week’s ground offensive at Ole Miss showcased to the nation just how deep the AU backfield really is. The Auburn Tigers gained 343 rushing yards in Oxford last week, with an average of 7.5 yards per rush. The Tigers have the luxury of leaning on three ultra-talent running backs to carry the load when called upon, and they have yet to disappoint. 

Freshman Michael Dyer has emerged as the Tigers’ starting running back, already rushing for 723 yards and 4 touchdowns on the year. Throughout 9 games this season, Dyer has broken the 100 yard rushing mark in 3 of them. In his latest outing against Ole Miss, the Arkansas native slashed through the Rebel defense for 180 yards and 1 touchdown. Just a week before, he rushed for 100 yards against a talented, nationally respected, LSU Tiger defense. Dyer possesses a lethal combination of power and agility when running, making him virtually impossible to bring down on first contact. 

Sophomore Onterio McCalebb is the second RB in Auburn’s committee. Known for his quick burst of speed and big play ability, McCalebb serves as the lighting to Dyer’s thunder. Needing only a little bit of space to become effective, McCalebb’s blown through defenders with his blazing speed numerous times this season. He has already amassed season long runs of 68, 70, and 50 yards, and has accumulated 5 touchdowns in the process. In just 9 carries against Ole Miss last week, McCalebb gained 99 yards and 1 touchdown, for a stunning 11 yards per carry. Against LSU, he rushed for 84 yards on 4 carries, racking up a gaudy 21 yard per carry average. On the year, McCalebb’s rushed for 557 yards on 64 carries. Just when defenses think that they’re getting a break from the powerful Dyer, they have to contend with McCalebb’s speed. 

Senior Mario Fannin is the closer of the talented Auburn trio. Although he is not used as frequently as Dyer and McCalebb, he’s just as vital to the Tiger rushing attack and commands the opposing defense’s respect when lined up in the backfield. Fannin has not only established himself a rusher, but as a skilled pass catcher out of the backfield. He currently ranks 4th on the team in receptions with 13, and is averaging 11 yards per reception. He had several key catches in Auburn’s high scoring shootout against Arkansas a few weeks ago that contributed heavily in Auburn’s victory. Rushing the ball, McCalebb boasts an impressive 6 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns on the season. 

Auburn’s offense continues to dominate the rushing stat column every week of the season. They currently rank 2nd in the nation, only behind Air Force, with 2,769 rushing yards on the year. In addition, the Tigers’ rushing attack is ranked 4th nationally in yards per game (307), and in rushing touchdowns (27). While all the pre-season chatter surrounded the Alabama Crimson Tide duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, Auburn has established itself as having the premiere backfield in the state. With Dyer and McCalebb being underclassman, do not expect Auburn’s rushing attack to slow down anytime soon. Things on the Plains are just getting started as Auburn continues to rush to daylight.

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