AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn running back Michael Dyer has been temporarily removed from the team due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
And the sophomore running back will not take part in bowl practices leading up to Auburn’s Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance against Virginia on New Year’s Eve.
Asked about Dyer’s status with the team, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik paused for nearly 20 seconds to find the correct phrase.
“He’s been temporarily removed from the team,” Chizik said. “He’s not going to be playing in the bowl game, he’s not going to be practicing in the bowl game.”
Chizik offered no new timetable for Dyer, who was suspended indefinitely over the weekend.
“The suspension is going to be until he does the things we feel like he needs to get back at Auburn and get back in an Auburn uniform,” Chizik said. “If he does that, he’ll have a chance. If he doesn’t, he won’t.”
Replacing Dyer’s production in the running game will be no easy task. Dyer ranked second in the SEC with 1,242 rushing yards and scored 10 touchdowns this season. A week ago, Dyer was named a first team All-SEC performer by both the Associated Press and the SEC coaches.
In Dyer’s absence, junior Onterio McCalebb and freshman Tre Mason will have to carry a much heavier share of the load in Auburn’s backfield.
Used primarily as Auburn’s speed threat on the outside, McCalebb rushed for 532 yards this season and caught 30 passes out of the backfield. With Dyer in the backfield, McCalebb’s role was clearly defined.
He may be asked to carry the ball inside more against Virginia in Dyer’s absence, but McCalebb, who declined to comment on Dyer’s temporary removal from the team, is not going to change his approach to the game.
“I’m just going to be Onterio,” McCalebb said.
Mason is the only other back on Auburn’s roster to carry the ball this season.
At 5-10, 190 pounds, he is listed 16 pounds heavier than McCalebb, which may give the freshman an opportunity to help fill Dyer’s punishing role as Auburn’s power back.
Used mostly as a kick returner or out of the Wildcat formation this season, Mason has rushed for 97 yards on 19 carries this season.
Mason, who battled hamstring issues during the middle of the year, averaged 26.4 yards-per-kickoff return and scored a touchdown before giving way to McCalebb late in the season due to ineffectiveness.
But he will have to carry the ball much more against Virginia.
“I was always looking for this chance, and I’m just going to do the best I can to contribute for this team,” Mason said. “I’m 100 percent ready for this.”
McCalebb and Mason are the only running backs available on Auburn’s roster. Anthony Morgan is still out with a knee injury, and both Corey Grant and Mike Blakely are redshirts this season.
Whether or not Auburn finds a third option at the running back position remains to be seen during the Tigers’ preparation for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which started with Monday night’s practice.
Chizik said the team is mulling over some options at the position.
“We’re looking at some different possibilities right now,” Chizik said. “I’m not going to say who they are right now, because they’re just ideas we’re throwing around.”
Mason may be the only one suited for Dyer’s role as an every-down back.
Only a freshman with limited playing experience, Mason has roughly three weeks of bowl practices to get ready to handle a bigger load.
“He’s played enough this year to give himself a chance to contribute,” Chizik said. “If he’s going to carry a bigger role in this game, he’s got a lot of work in front of him.”