Tigers must find replacements for Mason, Robinson, Prosch

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 23, 2014 

Mississippi Auburn Football

Tre Mason was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the third round of the NFL draft in May.

TODD J. VAN EMST — Auburn University

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's offense lost only three starters from last year's record-setting rushing unit.

But it's impossible to understate how integral each member of the trio was to the Tigers' successful 2013 season.

Tre Mason rewrote the school's record book, setting single-season marks for both rushing yards (1,816) and rushing touchdowns (23).

Greg Robinson protected quarterback Nick Marshall's blind side at left tackle and was a punishing blocker in the running game. Then there was fullback Jay Prosch, whose physicality and unparalleled blocking at the point of attack and downfield helped the Tigers pick up yards in bunches.

With fall camp now underway, the Tigers are trying to identify their replacements.

According to Gus Malzahn, expect it to be a protracted campaign.

"The thing about it, especially the veteran guys and some of the young guys, we're going to rotate them in with the orange (first team) to get a good feel of how they react and just give everybody a fair chance," he said. "There'll be a lot of rotation with that first group throughout spring. Hopefully we'll have a few more things defined later in the spring with that group."

At running back, seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant will tussle with redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. Malzahn said Grant practiced with the first-team offense Saturday. Since spring practice started Tuesday, however, the coach said they have been "switching off" at running back every day.

Rhett Lashlee said it was a bit of déjà vu. Just as the Tigers did last season, they have three viable candidates to start in the backfield.

However it shakes out, Lashlee said the coaching will find a way to make it work.

"We have three good ones. We'll just wait to see how it emerges," the offensive coordinator said. "If it's by committee, it is. If someone emerges, great. We feel good about that."

It's a similar story at Prosch's old spot. C.J. Uzomah, Brandon Fulse and Gage Batten all repped there during practices this week.

Another candidate who is doing his best to impress is Ricky Parks. He was dismissed on the first day of fall camp last season for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Welcoming himk as a walk-on in January, the Tigers have given Parks a shot at a starting job.

"He's getting a chance to play H-back and tight end and stuff like that," Malzahn said.

"As the spring moves forward, I can probably be a little more specific. He's just getting an opportunity."

A pair of players have been given a chance at left tackle.

One is Patrick Miller, who started the first five games of last season at right tackle.

The other is third-year sophomore Shon Coleman, once a five-star prospect.

During the first week of spring, the duo has alternated working with the starting offensive line at practice, with Saturday being Miller's day.

Reese Dismukes isn't part of the coaching staff.

But his experience speaks for itself; he is entering his fourth season as the Tigers' starting center, after all.

Echoing Malzahn's thoughts on the matter, Dismukes doesn't foresee the competition coming to a quick resolution.

"I think both of them have done a great job so far just coming to work," he said.

"I doubt that position will be filled this spring. I imagine they'll let them battle it out and keep going.

"It will keep going until the fall."

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