February 18, 2009

Luper: Auburnís RBís will be better

Curtis Luper has yet to step onto a practice field with Auburn's trio of returning running backs but he already knows plenty about them.

"I've watched everything," Luper said. "I've watched every touch -- Ben Tate, Mario Fannin and Eric Smith -- every touch, every play that they ran. I've watched them individually. We've watched them as a staff.

"We needed to know what they brought to the table and where we can plug them in."

A senior, Tate led the team in rushing for the second straight season with 664 yards and three touchdowns on 159 carries last season. Fannin, a junior, carried the ball 54 times for 238 yards and a touchdown and also caught two touchdown passes.

Smith played in 12 games as a true freshman last fall, carrying the ball 21 times for 83 yards.

"They played, which is good that they played and have game experience. Even Eric played last year, so that's good for us," Luper said. "They're tough, physical runners which is what you need in this conference. The defenses, here, dominate this conference. Very seldom does one guy carry the load in this conference.

"So we're going to use multiple backs, but (Tate and Fannin) in particular are tough, downhill runners, deceptive speed. You'll see them this spring. They'll be better than they were last year."

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