Auburn running back Michael Dyer celebrates after Auburn's come-from-behind win against Utah State when Dyer scored the winning TD. Dyer has been Auburn's most productive weapon this year with 358 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
AP SPORTS WRITER
AUBURN, Ala. -- Mike Dyer's workload could increase in the coming weeks.
The compact, powerful tailback has been Auburn's best offensive weapon entering Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic. For a team searching for ways to control the ball more on offense, that could mean an even bigger role once the Southeastern Conference schedule resumes next weekend.
"He's one of our strengths," Tigers coach Gene Chizik said. "And we definitely need to build upon our strengths."
Dyer has certainly been productive. He is the SEC's No. 2 rusher with 358 yards, six touchdowns and a 7.5-yard-per-carry average. The SEC's top runner, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, has 87 carries compared to 48 for Dyer.
The 5-foot-9, 210-pound Dyer hasn't had to take on the workhorse role very often. The Tigers last season had quarterback Cam Newton running, passing and coming up with a bounty of big plays and short-yardage runs. And speedster Onterio McCalebb, a perimeter threat, averaged 8.5 yards a carry.
Newton's now in the NFL, and McCalebb has been held in check so far.
Dyer, meanwhile, has run for 301 yards and four touchdowns on just 34 carries the past two games. He has reached 20 carries only three times in his career, including an MVP performance in the BCS national championship game, and topped 100 yards all three times.
With six straight SEC games coming up after Florida Atlantic (0-2), Auburn (2-1) might end up needing several more such games.
After all, every team in the league has held onto the ball at least 3:40 more per game than the Tigers' 23 minutes, 19 seconds of possession, and their defense has struggled.
Dyer said he's excited by the prospect of additional carries.
"I'd definitely like to play the ball more," Dyer said. "Just as a player, I mean, thinking about it, anybody who wants to lead the offense wants the ball in his hands more. I just do exactly what my coaches tell me to do, and if it's given to me more than 25 times, I would definitely like that."
Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn both said he's built to withstand some extra pounding.
"I think you go into each game with a plan, and he's a workhorse type guy and can definitely handle more carries," Malzahn said. "It just depends on the game and the situation. But he's a physical guy, and he's put together well."
Plus he said having an offseason of work has helped Dyer become "a step quicker." He had a career-best 52-yard rush in each of the past two games and added a 35-yarder against Mississippi State.
With those results, Dyer's teammates are open to seeing him get more carries.
"Anytime Mike gets the ball, I feel like he can do something with it," quarterback Barrett Trotter said. "If they want to give him the ball more, I feel like I got no problems with that."
Chizik has also said freshman Tre Mason, the league's leading kick returner, could get more time in the backfield.
Dyer has already taken over Newton's role in one regard. He's lined up in the Wildcat quarterback role in goal line situations and scored three short touchdowns with power runs, including the game-winner against Utah State.
Guard Jared Cooper said the offensive linemen like when Dyer pounds away at defenses.
"That's what we want to be. We want to be a between-the-tackle, downhill kind of team," Cooper said. "He's definitely built for that. He's durable, and he's got the right build for it. We love it."