AUBURN — Mike Dyer isn’t going to nudge Cam Newton out of the spotlight this football season, but the Auburn running back is within easy striking range of surpassing a school record held by the most famous Tiger of them all.
Dyer needs 107 yards to break Bo Jackson’s freshman record for most rushing yards in a season, and Jackson doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.
“I know Bo talked to all those guys on how to finish, and it’s probably something they really took to heart,” said coach Gene Chizik.
Jackson has spurred Dyer and tailback Onterio McCalebb throughout the season, helping Auburn, at least in some way, to its best start since 2004.
Auburn is 9-0, ranked No. 2 in the BCS and leads the SEC in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense. Newton is the principal reason why – he leads the SEC in rushing and has accounted for 30 touchdowns – but the Dyer and McCalebb have shown in the last few weeks they can eat up the yards, too.
Dyer has rushed for 280 yards in the last two weeks, or 39 percent of his 723-yard season total. And that’s kind of how running backs coach Curtis Luper envisioned Dyer’s season.
“It was our intent to kind of start off slow with him, and kind of work him into the offense, so the last four or five games of the season we could have him at full strength,” Luper said.
Dyer had 21 carries for 180 yards against Ole Miss last Saturday. That’s an Auburn freshman record in an SEC game. Dyer is also fourth in the nation among freshman running backs, averaging 80.3 yards per game.
Luper said he can see the tailback getting 20-25 carries in games down the stretch.
“That’s him. He’s always been that way. Eight thousand yards in high school just shows you that he’s got it,” Luper said. “He needs carries. He can handle 30, probably. He’s strong. He likes to get in that rhythm.”
McCalebb, a sophomore, has shadowed Dyer with touchdown runs of 70 and 68 yards in the last two games. Newton’s 1,122 yards add to the mix.
Dyer was slowed early in the year with a minor knee injury, but, on a 30-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss, he showed the speed that made him ESPN.com’s No. 1-rated high school tailback last season.
“I feel a lot better. I think my body has gotten in better shape,” he said. “I got back in treatment and did some things to overcome some of the bruises that I had.”
Dyer is looking for durability. He found it when Ole Miss’ defense did everything to stop Newton from running. The plan worked on the surface. Newton carried it 11 times for only 45 yards. But Dyer and McCalebb combined for 39 carries an