Stats & Info: Tre Mason

Contenders build off strengths on Day 2

May, 9, 2014
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Quarterbacks highlighted the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, and early on in Round 2 the Raiders made a splash at quarterback as well.

The Raiders selected Derek Carr 36th overall Friday, months after sending a sixth-round pick to the Texans in exchange for Matt Schaub.

The Raiders using multiple draft picks on quarterbacks shouldn’t come as a surprise. Three of the Raiders selections in 2012 were sacrificed in various moves to acquire three different quarterbacks (Carson Palmer, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn).

The rest of Friday’s action was most notable for playoff contenders building off strengths and teams making some interesting pairings.

The rich get richer

WR Jordan Matthews – 42nd overall, Eagles
WR Davante Adams – 52nd overall, Packers
WR Cody Latimer – 56th overall, Broncos


Nick Foles, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning each finished in the top six in Total QBR last season. All three lost a wide receiver in the offseason, and now all three have a new one to work with.

Matthews joins an Eagles team that led the NFL with 569 yards off screen passes last season. Last year at Vanderbilt, Matthews made 44 receptions off screen passes, tied for most among AQ-receivers (Sammy Watkins).

Adams’s specialty is yards after catch. His 888 YAC was second in the FBS to Watkins last season. He should fit in well with a Packers team that ranked third in yards after the catch in the NFL last season.

Latimer should prove to be a reliable target for Manning. Last season at Indiana, Latimer dropped only one pass on 119 targets.

RB Carlos Hyde – 57th overall, 49ers

The 49ers drafted a running back for the sixth straight draft, and for the ninth time in the last 10 drafts.

Hyde fits the downhill rushing mold for the 49ers. Hyde averaged 7.3 yards per rush last season at Ohio State, with 3.1 coming after first contact. Hyde gained at least one yard on all but 12 of his 208 rushes last season.

DE Kony Ealy – 60th overall, Panthers

The Panthers led the NFL with 60 sacks last season and drafted one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the SEC last season. Defensive end Ealy pressured the quarterback 35 times last season, most in conference.

Dynamic duos

WR Marqise Lee and WR Allen Robinson – Jaguars

The Jaguars took two wide receivers in the second round Friday night. The last team to take two wide receivers in the second round was the 2008 Redskins (Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas).

Lee and Robinson will join first-round quarterback Blake Bortles. They were two of seven receivers in AQ-conferences to gain 1,000 yards after the catch the past two seasons.

OT Greg Robinson and RB Tre Mason – Rams

Robinson went second overall in the first round, but Mason was selected 75th overall in the third round. The duo helped Auburn lead the FBS in rushing last season. Mason averaged 6.5 yards per rush running behind Robinson last season.

LB Ryan Shazier and DE Stephon Tuitt – Steelers

The Steelers ranked 21st in yards per rush allowed last season and ranked 25th in sacks. To fix that, the Steelers used their first two picks on front seven defenders.

Shazier was a first round selection that should help the rush defense. He was the only player in the FBS with 20 tackles for loss and 100 total tackles.

Tuitt should help the pass rush. He had 21.5 sacks in 35 career games at Notre Dame, and his 12 sacks in 2012 were second most in school history.

WR Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Buccaneers

Evans measured in at 6’5". Seferian-Jenkins measured in at 6’5". They will join Vincent Jackson, who also stands 6’5". Only one team – the Lions – had at least three players that tall making 20 receptions each.

Inside Auburn's unstoppable running game

January, 3, 2014
1/03/14
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Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesTre Mason has been a workhorse in Gus Malzahn's run-heavy offense.
If Auburn is going to knock off Florida State in the BCS National Championship, the Tigers will have to lean on their dominant running game.

Auburn rushed for 545 yards in the SEC championship, the most ever in a game between two SEC teams and the most overall by an SEC team since Auburn had 565 against Southwestern Louisiana in 1985.

Bo Jackson led the way for that Auburn team with 290 yards and four touchdowns. In the SEC championship on Dec. 7, it was Tre Mason, who had 304 yards and four touchdowns.

The week before the SEC title game, Auburn rushed for 296 yards in the Iron Bowl, the most Alabama had allowed in an SEC game since Nick Saban’s first season (2007), when the Tide allowed 301 to an Arkansas team led by Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis.

Origins of the running game
Auburn’s success can be traced to its hiring of Gus Malzahn. Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2009-11. He left to become the head coach at Arkansas State in 2012, when he led the Red Wolves to a Sun Belt Conference championship.

As a coordinator and coach, Malzahn is known for his run-first offense, which has led its conference in rushing in three of the past four seasons.

With Malzahn as its head coach, Auburn has run on 71 percent of its plays, the highest percentage for any non-triple-option offense in the FBS. Entering the bowl games, the Tigers led the nation in rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns and runs of 25 yards or more. They were one of five schools that had two players with at least 1,000 rushing yards each.

Heisman finalist Mason has been one of the main beneficiaries of Malzahn’s offense. His 283 carries were the fifth-most in FBS entering the bowls and 112 more than he had last season. As a result, he led the SEC in almost every major rushing category, and his seven 100-yard rushing games against SEC defenses are the most in a season for any player in the past 10.

Running quarterback is key
During the two seasons that Auburn has made the BCS National Championship, Malzahn has had the luxury of calling plays for a dynamic running quarterback. In 2010, it was Cam Newton. This season, it is Nick Marshall.

In both seasons, the Tigers ranked in the top five of the FBS in rushing yards per game, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns. In the two seasons between Newton and Marshall, Auburn had a combined 59 rushing yards by its quarterbacks and an 11-14 record.

Marshall has rushed for 1,023 yards, fifth-most by an FBS quarterback entering the bowl games. He has been outstanding making decisions in Auburn’s zone-read scheme. Zone reads have accounted for 46 percent of the Tigers’ carries.

On such plays, they average 7.3 yards per rush, including 9.0 when Marshall keeps the ball. Marshall’s 882 yards on zone reads ranks second among players from BCS automatic-qualifying (AQ) conferences entering the bowls behind Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey (1,278).

Running outside tackles
Auburn is one of three AQ teams to run outside the tackles on at least 50 percent of its carries. On such runs, the Tigers lead all AQ schools in rushing yards (2,887) and rank second in yards per carry (8.5) behind Wisconsin.

In fact, they had more rushing yards outside the tackles than 106 FBS teams had total rushing yards entering the bowl games.

The Tigers do an excellent job of sealing the edge. They average an AQ-high 6.3 yards before contact on runs outside the tackles and have 77 such runs in which first contact was not made until at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, 27 more than any other AQ school.

Can Florida State stop them?
Auburn will try to keep its ground game going against the nation’s leader in scoring defense, Florida State. The Seminoles have allowed five rushing touchdowns all season, tied with Iowa for the fewest in the FBS before bowls began.

Boston College is the only team to score more than 17 points against Florida State this season. Led by Heisman finalist Andre Williams, the Eagles rushed for 200 yards and scored 34 points.

Boston College had success running outside the tackles, gaining 160 yards on 26 carries.

The Seminoles struggled against such runs all season, allowing 107 more yards outside the tackles than inside, despite 84 fewer rushes. The three runs of 30 yards or more that they allowed this season were all outside the tackles.

After the SEC championship, Malzahn said, "Right now, we can run the football on anybody. So why change?” The question is whether or not Florida State can make Auburn change come Monday.

All six finalists have made Heisman case

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
10:31
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Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State fans have made their pick, but Jameis Winston is just one of six Heisman finalists.
Six Heisman Trophy finalists will head to New York for Saturday’s ceremony, the most that have received invites to the ceremony since 1994, when there were also six. The last time there were more was in 1988, with eight.

Although the favorite entering the ceremony is Florida State QB Jameis Winston, all six have made a solid case for why they are the best player in the country this season.

QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Although Northern Illinois' bid to be a BCS buster was ended in the MAC championship game, Lynch’s dual-threat ability kept the Huskies in it all season. He had 321 rushing yards against Western Michigan, the most by a quarterback in FBS history, breaking his own record of 316 set earlier in the year against Central Michigan.

Lynch ended the season with 1,881 rushing yards, also an FBS record for a quarterback.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel’s bid to join Archie Griffin as the only other multiple Heisman winner saw a transformation of his game. While his 2012 season was built more on his legs, his 2013 campaign saw him develop as a passer.

Manziel added a yard to his yards per attempt (from 8.5 in 2012 to 9.5 in 2013). His touchdown percentage also increased from 6.0 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent this year. Also in 2013, 63 percent of his completions this season have gone for a first down or a touchdown, compared to 57.6 percent last year.

RB Tre Mason, Auburn
Even after a 1,000-yard rushing season last year, Mason wasn't on the short list of Heisman contenders until he finished the season with five straight 100-yard rushing games, including 304 against Missouri in the SEC championship game, the fifth-highest total all-time in an SEC game.

Mason’s 2,137 all-purpose yards this season broke the Auburn school record, previously held by Bo Jackson. Mason’s 22 rushing TDs this season also set a school record.

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
This is McCarron’s third season as Alabama’s starting quarterback, and he’s improved every season. His opponent-adjusted QBR was 76.7 in 2011, 81.5 in 2012 and 83.5 this season.

He was even better against SEC competition. In conference games, McCarron had an 86.4 opponent-adjusted QBR, tied for the best in the conference. Fellow Heisman candidate Manziel was third (85.5).

RB Andre Williams, Boston College
This season, Williams became just the 16th player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season, and the first since Donald Brown did so for Connecticut in 2008.

Williams also showed big-play ability. He had 26 runs of at least 20 yards, the most by an FBS player since Kevin Smith had 26 in 2007. His 11 touchdowns on such runs are the most for any player in the last 10 seasons.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston is the clubhouse leader for the Heisman, and as the FBS leader in opponent-adjusted QBR (90.9), he has good reason to be. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Manziel last year.

Winston has also showed a clutch presence on the field throughout the year. On third downs, Winston has a 98.9 Total QBR, leading all FBS quarterbacks. Over the last 10 seasons, the highest third-down Total QBR in a completed season was also 98.9, by Andrew Luck in 2010.

Auburn rushes to victory over Missouri

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesTre Mason carried Auburn with 304 rushing yards in the SEC Championship Game.
The Auburn Tigers shredded the highly regarded defense of the Missouri Tigers Saturday in the highest-scoring SEC Championship Game in history. The 101 combined points shattered the previous record of 75 set in 1996, when Florida beat Alabama 45-30.

Tre Mason’s record day
Missouri hadn’t allowed a team to rush for more than 184 yards this season. Auburn running back Tre Mason surpassed that by himself with a record-breaking game.

Mason had 304 rushing yards, the second-most ever by an Auburn player behind Curtis Kuykendall, who had 307 against Miami on Nov. 24, 1944. Mason posted the fifth-most rushing yards in a game by an SEC player, the most since Arkansas' Darren McFadden had 321 in 2007 against South Carolina.

Mason gained 182 yards inside the tackles, the most by an SEC player this season. He made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage without being contacted on 14 of his 34 carries inside the tackles.

The Auburn running back made his mark on the school record book as well, setting single-season school records for rushing touchdowns (22) and all-purpose yards (2,137). The all-purpose yardage record was held by Bo Jackson, who amassed 1,859 yards in 1985.

Mason also set SEC Championship Game records for rushing yards (304), rush attempts (46), all-purpose yards (312) and most touchdowns (four).

Auburn dominates the line of scrimmage
Mason’s performance was indicative of Auburn’s dominance of Missouri at the line of scrimmage. Auburn ran for 545 yards, the most ever by an SEC team against an SEC opponent and the most by an SEC team since Auburn had 565 against Southwestern Louisiana in 1985.

Auburn rushed for the third-most yards in an FBS game this season. Missouri entered the game allowing 119.1 rushing yards per game, second-fewest in the SEC and 14th in the FBS.

Auburn’s 19 runs of at least 10 yards were the second-most in a game this season behind New Mexico’s 20 against Air Force on Nov. 8. Entering Saturday, Missouri had allowed 42 such runs this season and had not given up more than five in a game.

Auburn had 29 carries in which first contact was not made until at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, the most by any AQ school in a game this season. Entering Saturday, Missouri had not allowed more than nine such rushes in a game.

Auburn had 29 carries outside the tackles for 309 yards, the most such rushing yards yielded by any SEC defense this season and the second-most by Auburn. For the season, Auburn has more rushing yards outside the tackles (2,893) than 105 FBS teams have total rushing yards.

Key matchup: Alabama D vs. Auburn's run

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
10:23
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US PresswireAuburn has scored at least four rushing touchdowns in each of its past six games.

This year's "Iron Bowl of all Iron Bowls” features a matchup of strengths as Auburn’s rush offense is pitted against Alabama’s rush defense.

Under new coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn leads the SEC in rushing yards, yards per rush and rushing touchdowns. The Tigers have 21 more rushing touchdowns than they had all of last season, and they have scored at least four rushing touchdowns in six straight games.

Alabama’s defense leads the SEC in rushing yards, yards per rush and rushing touchdowns allowed. The Tide have allowed five total rushing touchdowns this season, and they are the only FBS team that has not allowed an opponent to rush for multiple touchdowns in a game.

The key to Auburn’s success has been its ability to create holes, particularly using the zone read, which has led to big plays on the ground.

Space to Run
Auburn has won the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Tigers average 209.5 rushing yards per game before first contact, most among teams in BCS AQ conferences. To put that into perspective, 97 FBS teams do not average 209.5 total rushing yards per game. The AQ average for rushing yards before contact per game is 97.0.

On designed rushes, the Tigers are averaging 4.6 yards per rush before first contact, best among AQ-conference schools. They have made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before initial contact on an SEC-high 31 percent of these rushes.

How Alabama matches up: The Tide have allowed an SEC-low 44.3 yards before contact per game and 2.0 yards before contact per designed rush. The Tide have allowed just 13 percent of their opponents’ rushes to gain 5 yards before first contact.

Zone Read
Auburn has utilized a zone read on 43 percent of its designed rushes this season, the second-highest percentage in the SEC. The Tigers lead the SEC in yards (1,589), yards per rush (7.2) and touchdowns (18) on zone-read rushes.

When Nick Marshall keeps the ball on the zone read, he has gained 657 yards and has seven touchdowns. He is averaging 9.4 yards per rush on such plays, best among BCS AQ quarterbacks with at least 25 such rushes.

How Alabama matches up: No quarterback has gained more than 22 yards on zone-read rushes against the Tide. Overall, Alabama’s opponents have averaged 3.6 yards per rush and have one rushing touchdown on 78 zone-read plays.

Big Plays
Auburn has 64 rushes of 15 yards or longer this season, second-most in the FBS, behind New Mexico (66). The Tigers have at least three such rushes in every game except one, a win against Mississippi State.

How Alabama matches up: Alabama has allowed just three rushes of 15 yards or longer all season, on pace to be the lowest total in the past 10 seasons. The Tide are able to limit long runs because they do not miss tackles, and they limit their opponents after contact.

Alabama has 30 missed tackles this season, 16 fewer than any AQ conference team. The Tide also have allowed an SEC-low 40 yards after contact per game.


Saturday’s Iron Bowl
Something has to give on Saturday; Auburn has rushed for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns in 10 of its 11 games this season, and Alabama has not allowed any of its opponents to rush for 200 yards or two touchdowns in a game.

Though Marshall has shown the ability to throw the ball, Auburn’s game plan is predicated on its running game. The Tigers run on 69 percent of their plays, the highest percentage for a non-triple-option offense, and have not attempted fewer than 35 rushes in a game.

If Alabama can shut down Auburn’s running game, the Tide may find themselves one win away from a third straight trip to the BCS National Championship. However, if Auburn can run the ball, the Tigers may be able to pull the upset against their biggest rival.

Running room, tough yards fueling Auburn

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Gus Malzahn has the Auburn Tigers at 7-1 and ranked 11th in the BCS standings.

Last season, Auburn finished 3-9, its worst record since 1952. Malzahn served as Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2010 when the Tigers won the BCS National Championship. In 2012 he was the head coach at Arkansas State. Under Malzahn, the Red Wolves finished 10-3 and were the Sun Belt Champions.

One of the keys to Arkansas State’s success last season was its running game. The Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in rushing yards per game for this first time since the conference sponsored football in 2001.

While Arkansas State ran through the Sun Belt, Auburn finished last in SEC play in rushing yards per game and yards per rush, while finishing tied for last in rushing touchdowns.

Malzahn has flipped the script for Auburn this season; the Tigers lead the SEC in rushing yards per game and yards per rush. They rank second in rushing touchdowns.

Through eight games, they already have 13 more runs of 10 yards or more and eight more rushing touchdowns than they had all of last season.

What specifically has fueled Auburn’s rushing attack in 2013?

More room to run
Auburn leads the SEC and ranks second among BCS AQ schools this season in rushing yards before contact.

Of the Tigers’ 2,523 rushing yards this season, 1,618 have come before contact. They are the only SEC team averaging more than four yards before contact per rush.

In 2012, Auburn was 13th in the SEC with 815 rushing yards before contact. The Tigers have 117 rushes in which they were not contacted until at least five yards past the line of scrimmage this season, 23 more than any other SEC team.

Tre Mason gaining tough yards
One constant for Auburn the last two seasons has been Tre Mason. In 2012, Mason was one of nine SEC players to rush for more than 1,000 yards, and in 2013 he ranks fifth in the conference with 753 rushing yards. However, Mason has been better at picking up tough yards in 2013 compared with 2012.

This season, Mason has converted 76 percent of his runs on third or fourth down, second-best percentage in the SEC behind Missouri’s Henry Josey (minimum 10 attempts). He has converted a first down on 79 percent of such runs with three yards or fewer to go, including a fourth and one play at the Texas A&M 1-yard line in the Tigers win.

Last season, Mason converted 50 percent of his rushes on third or fourth down, including only half when he had fewer than three yards to go for a first down.

Similarly, Mason has four rushing touchdowns in five goal-to-go attempts this season. He had five such touchdowns in 11 attempts last season.

Others besides Mason stepping up
In 12 games last season, Onterio McCalebb was the only Tiger besides Tre Mason to gain more than 400 rushing yards. In eight games this season, three Auburn players other than Mason have run for more than 400 yards.

Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant each have combined for 1,422 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Each player has his own strengths: Marshall is averaging 7.1 yards per rush on 44 zone-read rushes, Artis-Payne is averaging 7.0 yards per rush on 39 first-down rushes, and Corey Grant is averaging 11.1 yards per rush on 39 rushes outside of the tackles.

Rushing efficiency
Auburn has added 74.0 expected points on rushing plays this season, ninth most in the FBS. Last season, the Tigers had a -6.3 EPA on rushing plays, 78th in the FBS. Expected points added are the contribution of each unit to a team’s net points in a game, so Auburn has added about nine points per game towards its net scoring margin with running plays this season.

Next up for Auburn is a road game against Arkansas, a team that has struggled to stop the run in SEC play. The Razorbacks are allowing 251.5 rushing yards per game and 5.7 yards per rush in conference games, both worst in the SEC.

Auburn capable of running over Aggies

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
10:55
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John Reed/USA TODAY Sports
Tre Mason heads an Auburn rushing game that could give Texas A&M trouble.

First-year coach Gus Malzahn has led an offensive resurgence at Auburn. One year after finishing last in the SEC in total offense, Auburn’s run-heavy attack has improved to fifth this season. Saturday, Malzahn’s squad will hope to continue that success against a porous Texas A&M run defense.

Finding Running Lanes
No SEC team has run the ball more often than Auburn (64 percent of plays). One reason why it has been successful is because its runners have room to operate. Auburn ball carriers have not been contacted until at least five yards past the line of scrimmage on an SEC-high 83 carries.

Auburn averages an SEC-best 4.2 yards before contact per rush. Last year Auburn averaged just 1.9 yards before contact per rush, worst in the SEC.

Auburn has beaten up on lesser teams to compile much of those yards. Against SEC teams, Auburn averages just 2.3 yards before contact per rush.

However, Texas A&M does not resemble a typical SEC run defense. The Aggies allow 5.7 yards per rush this season, most among any BCS-AQ team (which includes Notre Dame). 3.3 of those yards come before contact, also worst among BCS-AQ teams. This is despite averaging 7.0 men in the box against the run, fourth-most among BCS-AQ teams.

As a result, over half of opponents’ carries against Texas A&M result in five-yard gains or more, second-most in the nation. In the Aggies’ only loss against Alabama, 65 percent of the Crimson Tide’s runs went for at least five yards. As a result, Texas A&M forced just six third-down situations the entire game, its lowest total since 2006.

Diversity on the Ground
Auburn is one of four FBS teams to feature four different rushers with at least 250 yards this season. Each has led Auburn in rushing in at least one game, and each has a different role within the offense.

Tre Mason is the team’s do-it-all runner, leading the team in carries and yards. Cameron Artis-Payne is the team’s primary inside runner with 82 percent of his yards coming between the hash marks.

Corey Grant does his damage outside, rushing for 97 percent of his yards outside the hash marks. So does quarterback Nick Marshall, who burned Ole Miss with 114 yards and two touchdowns to the left side two weeks ago.

Running outside has been a strength of Auburn’s this season. The Tigers average an SEC-high 185 yards per game outside the hash marks. Texas A&M has struggled to stop the outside run, allowing 7.5 yards per carry on such carries, most among BCS-AQ teams.

As ineffective as Texas A&M has been against the run, it has rarely mattered because it has scored at least 41 points in every game. For Auburn to win, its running game must operate at peak efficiency both to score points of its own and to keep Johnny Manziel and the Aggie offense off the field.

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