AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Mike Dyer could be poised to take more of a
Marcus Lattimore-like role in Auburn's offense.
The tailback has been the Tigers' biggest offensive weapon and posted two 150-yard rushing efforts in their first four games. They
haven't yet put a game in his hands with 20-plus carries like No. 10 South Carolina routinely does with its own star runner, Lattimore.
"I think Michael is ready to assume that role," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "We have to run what we think the defense is giving us an opportunity to run. If they are going to put eight or nine (defenders) up there, you can try to run it all day long without a lot of success, so you have to be willing to throw the ball.
"When we get the opportunities to run the ball, and we feel good that those opportunities are there, we'd really like to get Michael in the groove."
They could have a chance Saturday against the Gamecocks Saturday
in Columbia, S.C. Dyer and Lattimore both introduced themselves to the Southeastern Conference with 1,000-yard seasons as freshmen after arriving as two of the nation's most heralded backs.
They've just gone about it differently. Lattimore is leading the nation with 26.75 carries a game, including a 37-carry, 246-yard, three-touchdown effort against Navy.
Easily the league's top rusher, he is among the early Heisman Trophy candidates and has helped establish the Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0 SEC) as league contenders for a second straight year.
Dyer was also an instant factor, but shared carries last season with quarterback Cam Newton and backfield mate Onterio McCalebb.
He's averaging a more modest 15.5 carries a game for the Tigers
(3-1, 1-0) and still hasn't topped 20 in a game this season.
Dyer said he's "ready to carry it as many times as my coach asks me to."
"The more I touch it, I can get a feel for it, get used to it," he said. "I feel like I get better every time."
Dyer still trails only Lattimore (611 yards) and Alabama's Trent Richardson (441) among SEC rushers with 426 yards. He attracts less national attention than the other two backs, something his South
Carolina counterpart has noted.
"I wonder sometimes why he's not up there," said Lattimore, who was also heavily recruited by Auburn. "I think he's kind of looked over. He's a great running back, runs hard, and he's everything you want in a running back.
"He kind of reminds me of (Maurice) Jones-Drew from the Jaguars," he said. "Not too tall, but he's fast and real strong. He just runs real hard. That's one thing we do have in common, we run hard. He's got great hands out of the backfield, he can make a cut and make you miss."
Chizik said Lattimore has lived up to his recruiting billing. The South Carolina star also has 12 catches, pushing him close to 30 touches a game.
"He's everything that we saw he was coming out of high school," Chizik said. "He's quick, he's fast, he has great vision. He really does a great job of cutting the ball back and seeing things a lot of running backs can't see, and then he can get there in a hurry. On top of that, he's an incredible threat coming out of the backfield in terms of throwing the ball to him."
Dyer doesn't have a catch this season. He and Lattimore got to know each other when both were being recruited by Auburn.
The defenders for both teams are familiar with them, too, since Auburn and South Carolina played twice last season, including the
SEC championship game. The Tigers held Lattimore to 117 yards and one touchdown in the two meetings. Dyer had 164 yards but no scores.
"I think guys just play with an edge considering he was a top recruit and we were real big on him coming here," Auburn cornerback T'Sharvan Bell said of Lattimore. "(We) felt like we needed to show him maybe he should have been with us. Not saying he's with the wrong team, he's doing real well where he's at. I think guys just played with an edge and that was the key for us both times we played against them."
That was when Auburn had defensive tackle Nick Fairley leading the front line and a Top 10 run defense. Now, the Tigers are allowing a league-worst 226.5 yards per game on the ground.
Lattimore made a quick impression on Auburn defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker when the two met during the recruiting process and played in an all-star game together.
"When I first saw him play, you could tell there was a difference between him and everybody else," Whitaker said. "It's very rare that you see that."