The Chick-fil-A Bowl gave Tre Mason an opportunity.
An opportunity to see what his potential is at running back. For most of the season, Mason had to bide his time as a kick returner, trapped behind Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, a pair of players who rarely left the field.
But Dyer’s bowl suspension and subsequent transfer to Arkansas State left the door wide open for Mason, and his nine-carry, 64-yard performance in the Georgia Dome has left him confident about what he can do if he gets more carries.
“I’m doing my best to get the starting spot,” Mason said. “I’m doing whatever I can — lift hard, work hard in the classroom, on the field.”
Only a sophomore, Mason has spent the offseason putting on weight to better take the between-the-tackles pounding required by new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s scheme. In the spring, the running backs were often less physical than position coach Curtis Luper would have liked, but Mason’s added size — he’s almost as big as Dyer now — could better equip the burner to absorb a pounding inside.
After playing at 190 pounds last year, Mason’s up to 205 now, and he says he hasn’t lost any speed. In fact, Mason thinks he’s gotten faster after clocking a 4.35 40-yard dash during the offseason.
“I feel like I’m more complete. I didn’t lose any speed,” Mason said. “I feel great at this weight.”
In addition, Mason should be used more in the passing game. Both he and McCalebb have good hands, and Loeffler likes to move his weapons around to get better matchups.
“All his plays, he disguises people, puts people everywhere. You might see me or Onterio out at receiver a little bit. I feel like we’re going to be a threat,” Mason said. “I love catching passes out of the backfield. Put me out wide, I love it.”
- Mason is excited about the addition of Jay Prosch at fullback. “We call him the Hulk. Whatever’s in his way, he’s going to smash it. I’m just going to run behind him. He makes a big difference. I have a lot more confidence in my game knowing he’s in front of me because I know he’s going to clear the way for me,” Mason said. “In high school, I played behind a fullback. That’s all we did. We ran the power-I in high school. I kinda know the timing and how it’s supposed to go.”
- A couple of the incoming freshmen have impressed Mason, none more than one of the new wide receivers. “Ricardo Louis,” Mason said. “He’s really quick, really fast off the ball. He’s got great hands, his awareness is great. Yesterday or the day before, he caught a pass on the sideline, and it was almost impossible to keep your feet in, and he did.”
- Auburn wants to have a leg up on the competition early. “We want to be ahead of everyone else now,” Mason said. “Teams get better later in the season, we want to be a lot better than everyone else.”
- Mason mentioned that each position group has its own captain, saying that Philip Lutzenkirchen, Emory Blake and Onterio McCalebb are all captains. He also said Lutzenkirchen serves as captain for the whole team.