Spring shoes to fill: Auburn

Auburn is on the docket today, and the Tigers will be looking to rev up their running game this spring.

OUT: RB Michael Dyer. After leading Auburn in rushing each of his first two seasons and reaching the 1,000-yard mark each season, Dyer landed in trouble off the field one too many times and was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season. There were rumblings at the time that he would never play another game for the Tigers, and those rumblings proved to be correct. Dyer left Auburn after the season and transferred to Arkansas State, where he was reunited with former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Dyer pretty much was Auburn’s offense last season and carried the ball 242 times for 1,242 yards. He had 141 yards on 41 carries in the 16-13 win over South Carolina. The Tigers couldn’t throw the ball, so their answer was turning around and handing the ball to Dyer. That answer won’t be available in 2012.

IN: Onterio McCalebb, Tre Mason, Mike Blakely or Corey Grant. As a complement to Dyer, McCalebb was one of the more underrated running backs in the SEC the past two seasons. He has breakaway speed and is the kind of big-play threat that coaches love at the running back position. McCalebb now gets the chance to prove that he can be the go-to back. He’s never averaged fewer than 5 yards per carry, but isn’t known for his ability to run between the tackles and get the tough yards. Mason, who will be a sophomore, may be that guy. He’s added weight and strength and was impressive when he got chances a year ago, be it on offense or kickoff returns. The other guy to watch is Mike Blakely, a transfer from Florida who will be eligible next season. Blakely could also wind up being an inside running threat for the Tigers along with Grant, who’s helped himself with a terrific offseason in the strength and conditioning program. First-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will almost certainly use the running backs in the passing game as well, which makes McCalebb even more of a commodity. He caught 32 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns last season.