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November 5, 2013

Mason exceeding expectations

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AUBURN | There were 13 running backs and six all-purpose running backs ranked ahead of junior Auburn tailback Tre Mason in the 2011 recruiting class. Mason was a member of the Rivals250, but remained slightly overlooked.

Fast forward into November of 2013 and Mason's production tells the story of an underrated prospect out of high school and a player driven to prove the doubters wrong.

Top Ten Producing Backs from 2011
PLAYERYARDSTDs'11 RANK
Ka'Deem Carey (ARIZONA)3,42639
19
Ameer Abdullah (NEBRASKA)2,39517
ATH
Tre Mason (AUBURN)2,08422
20
Devonta Freeman (FSU)1,87824
14
Jeremy Hill (LSU)1,67724
27
De'Anthony Thomas (ORE.)1,66525
ATH
Malcolm Brown (TEXAS)1,41916
1
Kenny Hilliard (LSU)1,07020
10
James Wilder (FSU)1,06316
2
Andrew Buie (WVU)1,0228
16
Mason's career mark of 2,084 rushing yards ranks third behind only Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah among running backs from the 2011 class and backs that have played their entire career in the Bowl Subdivision.

Mason's 22 career touchdowns ranks fifth among running backs ranked within those same parameters.

Arriving at barely 190 pounds, Mason has added nearly 20 more while maintaining his reputation for displaying impressive balance and making tough yards between the tackles.

"He doesn't stop on a play," Auburn corner Jonathon Mincy said this season. "It's going to take more than one man to bring him down. He always is looking for them extra yardage and that's something that you enjoy and you want out of your backs. That's something that I feel he takes great pride in, not letting just one man bring him down. He's an exciting back and I'm glad to have him on this team."

[VIDEO: Tre Mason commits to Auburn]

The start to Mason's career on the Plains was delayed. He didn't arrive to Auburn until Aug. 1 while most of his freshman counterparts arrived in the spring or mid-summer. Mason's first day in Auburn was the Tigers' first day of fall practice.

Behind tailbacks like then sophomore Michael Dyer and junior Onterio McCalebb, carries were limited in 2011. Mason managed 28 rushes for 161 yards and one touchdown during his freshman campaign. However, Mason led the team with an average of 5.75 yards per carry. That was a sign of things to come.

Then came the debacle of 2012. Dyer was dismissed, elevating Mason to the primary tailback role along with McCalebb. Somehow, on a 3-9 team, Mason rushed for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns in Scot Loeffler's only season and Gene Chizik's final season. The Auburn offense last year ranked 118th in total offense; Mason's rushing total accounted for nearly 30% of the Tigers total yardage. It was an amazing feat during one of the Tigers' worst seasons ever.

More remarkably, Mason averaged 5.86 yards per carry -- the highest of his career. That includes this season.

Mason has flourished this season with the return of Gus Malzahn and his offensive staff. Through nine games, Mason has rushed for 921 yards and 13 touchdowns. That touchdown total is third nationally among running backs and tops among BCS players. In SEC games only, Mason leads the league with eight touchdowns and ranks second with 118 yards per game. Mason also leads the league in scoring with 84 points.

Against Arkansas, Mason enjoyed career highs in carries (32) and touchdowns (4) on his way to 168 rushing yards and SEC Offensive Player of the Week.

He's accomplished all that, while watching 210 additional carries this season go to quarterback Nick Marshall, and fellow backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant.

"He's a special guy in the backfield because he can pop one at any time, on any defense," Marshall said of Mason. "He's a special kid. the offensive line opens holes for him and he's just able to gash them and make plays with his legs."

Mason is now tied for 14th among Auburn's career rushers with James Bostic (2,084; 1991-93), passing Secdrick McIntyre (1,916; 1973-76) and Lionel James (2,068; 1980-83). This was his fourth 100-yard game this season and seventh of his career.

Mason has now scored at least one rushing touchdown in six consecutive games and 13 of his last 16 contests.

Twitter: @JHokanson



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