AUBURN, Ala. — One of Corey Grant's primary objectives since the end of the 2013 campaign was to prove he could be a bellwether back. All too often, he was labeled a "speedster" and nothing more. Yet on its face, it's far from an outlandish claim. During his days at Opelika High School, he was defined by his speed, winning Alabama's Class 6A 100-meter state title twice and the 200-meter state championship once.
And once he came to Auburn's, that's how the Tigers used him: as a change-of-pace back, not the primary ballcarrier. In his two-year career on the Plains, he has run the ball 75 times for 676 yards and six touchdowns, with all six of those scores coming last season.
In the most telling statistic — and the one he hopes to shed this fall — is that he has never had more than nine carries in a single game. That came in last year's season opener versus Washington State, when he finished with 146 yards and a touchdown.
This spring, Grant admitted he's well-aware many people doubt his ability to fill the void left by Tre Mason and become the Tigers' go-to option in the backfield.
“That’s one thing I do want to do: establish myself, because you know it’s a question if I can run between the tackles," Grant I want to get that established throughout spring and going into the fall, letting everybody know I can do that.”
Rhett Lashlee believes the senior has done just that.
"He's very capable of running between the tackles now which I think is a plus for us with our depth," Auburn's offensive coordinator said. "It's just impressive. He's a thick, big strong back that can fly."
Lashlee acknowledged the first time he saw Grant in action, he walked away with the same perception many others held at the time: He's got speed ... and not much else.
"I remember when we were recruiting Corey out of high school the first time, he was exactly what you thought," Lashlee said. "He's a scat back and a sprinter."
Thanks to Ryan Russell, that's no longer the case. The Tigers' strength and conditioning coach has helped Grant bulk up to 205 pounds — well above his days at Opelika, when he was in the 180-pound range — and refine his body. But the weight gain is only half of it, Lashlee said.
Somehow, Grant has gotten into better shape and not sacrificed a scintilla of his world-class speed.
"He's put on all that mass and you saw last year he was running some guys over instead of running out of bounds," Lashlee said.