AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s coaches want Roc Thomas to run north and south more, but they don't want to take away his play-making instincts.
Those instincts showed out Saturday as the former Oxford High star and 2013 Alabama Mr. Football spun and juked his way to lead all rushers with 69 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns in Auburn's A-Day game.
He rushed for a 36-yard touchdown for the Auburn team, which comprised what represented Auburn’s first-team offense. Rotating with Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber, he also rushed for a 3-yard touchdown for Tigers.
Auburn beat Tigers 24-14 before an announced crowd of 62,143.
“We went out in front of a lot of people, but any time you practice, it's a chance to go out and show what you've got,” Thomas said.
Thomas showed the make'em-miss instincts Oxford fans know so well. He also showed the cut-and-go mindset his Auburn coaches want to instill.
The compromise reality looked good on this day.
Robinson took the first snap with the first-team offense, but Thomas came in to finish the drive with a 36-yard touchdown run. He started up the middle then broke right, eluding defensive back Stephen Roberts and following quarterback Jeremy Johnson's lead down the sideline.
Wide receiver D'haquille Williams sealed off the last defender with a chance.
Thomas came in for the first snap of the next drive for the first-team offense and accounted for 34 total yards, 12 on a screen pass from Johnson and 22 on two rushes. His most impressive run saw him look left into a pack of white jerseys, spin back and break through a hole up the middle for 10 yards.
“It was just trying to be patient more and just trying to do what they want me to do,” Thomas said.
Thomas has spent this spring competing with Robinson and Barber. Robinson carried four times for 11 yards Saturday, and Barber carried nine times for 46 yards.
“All three of our running backs, they’re very good with the ball in their hands,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “All three of them made some good runs. Roc made a couple of spin moves, came out of some things, and it was really nice. I know (running backs) coach (Tim) Horton has been working real hard with those guys just making one cut, getting positive yards, getting some extra yards.”
Thomas averaged 9.9 yards a carry on A-Day.