AUBURN, Ala. Cameron Artis-Payne has no idea where he stands on Auburns running back depth chart.
Hes fine with being in the dark, though. Besides, its not as if any of the other candidates for the job have been treated any differently.
We actually havent gotten any updates, so if you know something let me know, Artis-Payne said with a laugh. Everybody just continues working. We dont really know too much at this point.
And thats been the plan all along.
"Well, we're not going to name any starters in the middle of spring ball. We just don't do that, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. We know as coaches where everybody's at in our eyes."
Artis-Payne doesnt have any worries about how the coaching staff views him. When first asked about his play this spring, he replied he felt good. A moment later, he went a step further, and said he felt great.
Its the type of attitude Lashlee relishes.
Love it. Cam's a pro. Cam was a pro last year, the coach said. He practices like a pro. What that means, he comes to meetings every day. He's the same every day. He doesn't have bad days. He's always attentive. He's always trying to get better.
As confident as he was, though, the rising senior knows he wont be able to determine his own playing time this fall.
Thats up to the coaches, Artis-Payne said. Thats something where they will watch film and see what they like and see what we need to work on. Everybody is fighting for that role. At the end, its ultimately the coaches decision. You just have to keep working.
While Lashlee nor head coach Gus Malzahn has yet to drop any hints to the three combatants vying for the position Artis-Payne, fellow senior Corey Grant and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber as to their place on the depth chart, the Pennsylvania native has enjoyed the battle.
Its a good thing. Youve got a bunch of a good running backs in a room and everybodys trying to push each other, Artis-Payne said. Everybody wants to be the guy to step up and be the lead back. Its a healthy competition. We all feed off of it.
Still, if Artis-Payne gets his way, hell eventually be named the lead back the sooner, the better. Thats why he took it upon himself this spring to develop the kind of synergy with quarterback Nick Marshall that Heisman finalist Tre Mason had last season.
Youve always got to have a connection with the leader of your offense, he said. Nick is the unquestioned leader of our offense. Everybody is trying to build a strong bond with Nick especially with the zone read being a big part of our offense. Weve got to get that down pat.
With the arrival of highly-touted junior college receiver Dhaquille Williams along with the return of Marshall and a bevy of pass-catchers, the Tigers are expected to put the ball in the air more next season. Knowing that, Artis-Payne has worked to perfect his pass blocking.
After all, that may be the difference in starting versus coming off the bench.
Honestly, everybody (has been) willing to stick their nose in there, he said. Everybody is aggressive when it comes to pass blocking because we know thats a major part of getting on the field. Everybody is taking a big jump with that. We have grown in pass blocking and we havent blown too many assignments in that, either. Were doing good in that area.
Last season, Artis-Payne was Auburns third-leading rusher, running for 610 yards and six touchdowns on 91 carries. No one topped him at last years A-Day, however, as he had game-highs in rushes (18) and yards (137).
Not surprisingly, that performance earned him the games offensive MVP award.
When asked whether he could repeat that effort Saturday, Artis-Payne left nothing to chance.
An unerring belief in himself the same conviction that may help him become the Tigers next premier running back came to the fore once more.
I dont think Im going to need as many touches as I did last year, he said.