Auburn running backs coach Curtis Luper boldly promised last spring that Ben Tate would run for 1,000 yards last season. Tate finished with 1,362 yards.
Luper made a similar promise Monday about Tate’s successor, rising senior Mario Fannin.
“No question,” Luper said after the Tigers’ final practice this spring. “Write it down. Bold letters. He has everything that you need to get that done.”
Fannin, who averaged 8.4 yards per carry in limited touches last season, answered all the questions Auburn had about him entering the spring.
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The often-moved utility player had a history of fumbling problems. Luper said Fannin didn’t put the ball on the ground once this spring.
He also has improved his pass protection and lowering his pads when running between the tackles, something he didn’t have to do often last year running in space as an H-back.
“It’s obvious to me that Mario can do what Ben did for this offense, after being with him for a month,” Luper said. “He’s a complete back. He can do it all, and expectations are going to be high for him.”
Luper’s one caveat for the 1,000-yard prediction is that Fannin must stay healthy, which he has had trouble doing his first three seasons.
If he can’t, Auburn has options. Speedster Onterio McCalebb has bulked up to 177 pounds, hoping to be more durable. Dontae Aycock got some looks at tailback, although Luper said his role will broaden to other positions in the fall.
The Tigers also have Michael Dyer, the No. 1 running back recruit in the country according to ESPN, arriving this summer. Luper said he will be thrown in the fire immediately.
He predicted 1,000 yards for Dyer too before quickly backing off a little bit.
“You better put that one in small print,” he said, laughing. “Until I at least work with him in practice.”