*From Auburn Media Relations*
AUBURN, Ala. — A 14-second video of maybe-5-foot-10 Auburn running back Tre Mason dunking a basketball was an instant social media hit and head-scratcher for fans and coaches over the summer.
"They thought I was dunking on a nine-foot rim. They couldn't believe it," Mason said. "I had to show people I could still move."
Tre Mason, the running back who missed most of spring practice with an injured ankle and who was dunking on a regulation goal a few months later, is out to prove any doubters wrong again. He rushed for 1,002 yards last season, and has high expectations this year, too.
"People tell me I wasn't big enough. I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't fast enough. I take all of that as motivation to get bigger, stronger and faster, and to prove everybody wrong," Mason said.
He'll have more competition for carries this time with the arrival of junior college running back Cameron Artis-Payne, but there should be enough carries to go around in the offense of Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee. Certainly, there promises to be more juice in that offense after last year's struggles with the former coaching staff.
Mason says he'd be happy to be the primary rusher. "But Coach Lashlee and Coach Malzahn have a plan. We're going to roll with that because they know exactly what they're doing."
His new running mate, Artis-Payne, says, "I think Tre's going to shock a lot of people. I think he's going to have a good season. Tre and I talk a lot, and he's really determined."
Artis-Payne figures to share the true tailback spot with Mason while Auburn looks at Corey Grant for speed sweeps and other duties that will utilize his quickness.
Artis-Payne says he's gained 10 pounds since arriving in January and is "about 216," making him more durable after rushing for 2,048 yards and 25 touchdowns last season at Allan Hancock Junior College in California. He's looking for big things again.
"The offense fits me well. I really like Coach Malzahn's offense," Artis-Payne said. "You can't help but like it. It makes it to where you can be successful in the offense whether you're a speed guy or a power back or you fit both roles. You can't do nothing but be successful in this offense."
Artis-Payne was the MVP in the A-Day Game in the spring. He shrugs that off.
"I'm a pretty confident dude. It was just another day for me. That was about it," he said.
Lashlee says he likes all three of his runners.
"I feel like there are three really good guys that all do different things well," he said. "We've got a bigger guy in Cameron, who's really good in pass protection. You've also got a guy like Tre and Corey who have maybe a little bit different style of running. And all three fit well into what we do."
Lashlee said there's room for everybody.
"If you look at the history of our system, we usually have two, sometimes even three, backs. And maybe there's one that's a little bit more of the feature guy, but you usually have two guys that you can definitely count on and then maybe another guy who has a unique role that kind of takes the pressure off," he said. "But I do think Tre's durable enough for 20 carries a game, but I think we've got three guys that are all capable of doing the same thing.
"It may be a running back by committee deal or one guy may kind of raise his level a bit above the others. Either way is fine with me. I feel like those three guys are competing hard."