Auburn’s rushing offense has thrived this year, thanks to quarterback Cam Newton’s contributions.
Running backs coach Curtis Luper issued a strong rebuke to his group, however, insisting it hasn’t played “well enough.”
“We’ve got to do better,” Luper said. “We’ve got to be more productive. I’m looking for us to contribute and help this football team more.”
Newton leads the Tigers with 672 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. The tailbacks have combined for 899 yards and five scores.
Freshman Mike Dyer has 390 yards, but he’s fumbled twice in the last three games.
“He’s improved some but not as much as I want him to improve,” Luper said. “My expectations for him are high. His expectations for himself, they’re high. But I’m expecting more. Maybe Saturday.”
Senior Mario Fannin is back from a shoulder injury and has run well, carrying 18 times for 139 yards the last two weeks.
“He’s moved the chains, but I need more than just the chains moving,” Luper said. “I need touchdowns. I need them in the end zone. It will take some pressure off Darvin (Adams) and Cam.”
Luper said 165-pound speedster Onterio McCalebb (345 yards) is a good option on the perimeter but that Auburn will “leave that inside, tough stuff up to Mario and Mike.”
“We need two or three more play-makers,” Luper said.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino served as Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2002,. Tigers cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley remembers many late nights sharing cups of coffee in the athletic complex.
“He’s like the guy that we’ve got,” Lolley said, referring to Gus Malzahn. “He’s relentless around the clock. He’s going to work at the game all the time.”
Lolley remembers trying to pick Petrino’s brain for some insight as to how he operates an offense and what might give him trouble. He had little luck.
“He’s not the kind of guy who offers a whole lot,” Lolley said. “He figures he might play against you one day. He thinks ahead on that too.”
Gene Chizik, who was Auburn’s defensive coordinator at the time, said there was nothing remarkable about he and Petrino’s friendship.
“We have professional relationship, like I do with everybody else in the league,” Chizik said.
Two Tigers were added to midseason watch lists for national awards: Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Newton, the SEC leader in rushing and pass efficiency (180.73) was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the most outstanding college player.
Fairley, who leads the SEC in sacks (5) and tackles for a loss (12.5), is in contention for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player.
Off the list
Devin Gaulden, a cornerback from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is no longer an Auburn commit, according to AuburnUndercover.com.
Gaulden, a 2011 recruit, gave his verbal commitment to the Tigers on July 22 but recently took an official visit to Boston College, according to Rivals.
Auburn has 14 commitments for 2011. Teams can sign up to 28 in February and admit as many as 25 each year.
Chizik said it looks like freshman Steven Clark will handle the punting, but the coaches won’t decide until after tomorrow’s practice. ... Freshman WR Trovon Reed (knee) is “getting to the point now where it’s going to be redshirt time.” Because Reed has played in one game, Auburn would need to seek a medical hardship waiver for him to redshirt. ... LB Eltoro Freeman remains “day-by-day” with various bumps and bruises.