AUBURN — Cameron Artis-Payne doesn’t lack confidence.
After rushing for 610 yards and six touchdowns last season, he wants to be the bell cow in the Auburn backfield this season.
“I mean you always got to believe in yourself so I believe I can be the guy, but I mean that’s up the coaching staff and what they feel is working and being effective,” Artis-Payne said. “At the end of the day it’s about the team, not just one individual player.”
In the depth chart released this week, Artis-Payne is listed as a co-starter at running back along with fellow senior Corey Grant in a competition that’s been a dead heat for months. It won’t change heading into the season opener.
“I know Corey, last year, was more perimeter but he can run the whole offense and really has improved in a lot of areas,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “(Artis-Payne) is a very confident guy, got a lot of quality carries last year … especially early. We know what we’re getting with him. Him and Corey right now are 1 and 1A.”
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee feels both the powerful Artis-Payne and the speedy Grant, who had 647 yards and six touchdowns last season, have developed into every-down players.
“Corey, I think, has definitely developed into an every-down kind of back. I definitely feel the same way about Cam,” Lashlee said. “I think Cam is faster than he was last year. They are both really good in pass protection.”
Artis-Payne is still a downhill runner at heart though, and he’s proud of it.
On 13 carries on third down with three or fewer yards to go, Artis-Payne converted for nine first downs. By comparison, Tre Mason converted 24 of 28 such attempts.
“I don’t want to say I changed my game too much,” Artis-Payne said. “I mean, I look at back when I was getting recruited, I did it all. When I got here I got kind of in a box from y’all. All in all, I mean I feel like I can do it all.”
Grant’s reputation as the speed guy won’t change much until he’s consistent between the tackles. Only six of his 66 carries last season came on third downs, regardless of distance, and he didn’t convert any for first downs.
Artis-Payne feels they can be a productive power and speed combination.
“I feel like we add a lot to the offense,” he said. “As everybody knows, Corey runs a 4.1 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), so I mean, you don’t find that everywhere. It’s a lot of different dimensions I think we can add to this offense and hopefully y’all will be able to see it.”