Tre Mason has been by far the most productive running back for Auburn this season. Mason, a sophomore, has 150 carries for 920 yards with eight touchdowns, which accounts for more than half of Auburn’s 1,689 rushing yards this season.
He routinely breaks tackles and fights for extra yards, whether it’s on the outside or between the tackles.
“The wide zone play and the inside zone play fits him,” Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “He understands he’s missed some cuts he knows he needs to improve on. But he’s a zone runner. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons we put the play in.”
In order for Mason, who was not available for comment this week, to be the fourth straight 1,000-yard rusher for Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC) he’ll need to gain 80 yards against No. 2 Alabama and its outstanding rush defense. The Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1) are ranked third nationally and best in the SEC against the run, allowing just 75.6 yards per game, though the number increases ever so slightly to 81.6 yards in SEC games.
“Our offensive line is going to have to have the best game that they have played all year to give Tre Mason or anybody else that touches the ball a chance to run it,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said.
Mason has been far more productive in non-conference games than against SEC foes, a trend which has large ramifications for the Tigers’ offense. In SEC games, he has 80 carries for 391 yards (4.9 average) with four TDs. But in non-conference games, Mason has 70 carries for 529 yards (7.6 average) with four TDs.
Auburn is averaging 153.5 rushing yards, but against SEC opponents, it drops to a conference-worst 86 yards.
Offensive line still undecided
The Tigers offensive line is still on the mend, and the personnel remains undecided.
Christian Westerman made his first start last week at left guard, which set off a series of changes. John Sullen moved from left to right guard, and Chad Slade bumped from right guard to left tackle for Greg Robinson.
Chizik said the health of Westerman (left ankle) will play a role in how the starting offensive line is decided.
“I think health-wise will play a part in the picture, and we’ll make those determinations later in the week,” Chizik said.
Holland probable to start at MLB
Jake Holland appears likely to start at middle linebacker for the 10th time this season. Holland said his injured right ankle is better and he’s ready to go.
Cassanova McKinzy, who started in place of Holland against Vanderbilt and Georgia, is recovering from an ankle injury of his own.
Holland said he has been practicing with the first-team defense. Chizik said McKinzy’s health is improving, and his status for Saturday is still undetermined.
The battle at free safety between Demetruce McNeal and Trent Fisher is still undecided. Fisher has a 60-yard interception return touchdown in last week’s 51-7 win over Alabama A&M. McNeal is Auburn’s second-leading tackler (90). McNeal was not available for comment this week. Nosa Eguae and Corey Lemonier are listed ‘OR’ as starting defensive ends on the depth chart. It is the first time Lemonier, who started the first nine games but has not started the past two, has not been the listed starter during the week. He has 29 tackles and 5 sacks.