As I noted in yesterday's preview of the SEC showdown between Auburn and Mississippi State, Tigers' senior running back Mario Fannin entered the year among my favorite breakout candidates .
It isn't difficult to follow my logic. Fannin, who already holds the Auburn record for most receptions by a running back, and at 5-11, 227 pounds has shown intriguing lateral agility and straight-line speed, was expected to take over this year as the Tigers' primary ball-carrier. Considering that he took over for Ben Tate, who himself, rode a breakout senior campaign to the second round of the 2010 draft, the writing on the wall seemed to have been done with a Sharpie.
Or maybe it was a pencil, as Fannin, through two games at least, is struggling.
Despite Auburn rushing for 367 yards in their opener two weeks ago against Arkansas State, Fannin only rushed three times for 14 yards. Even more troubling, Fannin fumbled. Fumbling had previously been a significant issue for Fannin, especially during his sophomore year.
Fannin has also struggled, at times, with injury over his career. Last night, with Auburn in a very physical game against Mississipi State, Fannin again caught the injury bug, going down in the early fourth quarter with an apparent left shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game.
Even prior to the injury, however, Fannin had struggled against Mississippi State's talented defense. Having rushed five times, Fannin gained only six yards against the Bulldogs. Thus, in two games, Fannin has eight attempts for 20 yards.
Meanwhile, his teammates, Onterrio McCaleb (21 rushes for 144 yards over first two games) and Mike Dyer (24-143-1 TD) have enjoyed much greater success. They're play last night against the Bulldogs strongly contributed to the Tigers' hard-fought 17-14 victory.
Fannin's build, speed and receiving skills make him an intriguing prospect. Needless to say, however, if he is to enjoy the breakout campaign that will earn him anything higher than a late round selection, he'll need to start doing it soon.