If there ever was a player that’s had to show patience, it’s Auburn running back Corey Grant.

Grant has traveled a road filled with twists and turns to get to his final year of college football.

He first chose to wear crimson after an impressive career at Opelika (Alabama) High School. Yet after redshirting his first year at Alabama, Grant did an about-face and decided to transfer to Auburn. He forfeited one year of eligibility, satisfying NCAA transfer rules because he thought he’s be a better fit at Auburn. Grant had to walk-on at Auburn and consequently walked away from two national championship rings.

Grant was used sparingly in his first year with Auburn, carrying the ball just nine times while Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb got fed most of the carries.

With McCalebb in the NFL, Auburn seemed to have two beasts at running back – Mason and Grant – for the 2013. That was until Cameron Artis-Payne arrived from Allan Hancock Junior College. Grant made his case for being the starter in the season-opener against Washington State, rushing for 149 yards.

The starting running back spot became an open competition, though, through the first three games. In the fourth game against LSU, Mason rushed for 149 yards on 26 carries and scored two touchdowns. That was enough for the coaches to decide who their starter was going to be.

Grant wasn’t the Tigers go-to back but he had a tremendous impact on Auburn’s offense. He didn’t just give Mason a breather, rush for 20 yards on 5 carries then stand on the sideline for the rest of the game. Grant carried the ball 66 times for 647 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 9.8 yard average made him one of Auburn’s leaders in explosive plays (plays over 15 yards). His explosive plays made up a majority of his rushing totals.

  • Washington State: 75-yard touchdown run, 148 total rush yards
  • Arkansas State: 17-yard touchdown run, 40 total rush yards
  • Mississippi State: 12-yard run, 44 total rush yards
  • Western Carolina: 51-yard touchdown run, 83 total rush yards
  • Texas A&M: 32-yard run, 45 total rush yards
  • Florida Atlantic: 43-yard touchdown run, 75 total rush yards
  • Tennessee: 20-yard run, 48 total rush yards
  • Georgia: 21-yard touchdown run, 53 total rush yards
  • Alabama: 16-yard run, 28 total rush yards
  • Missouri: 43-yard run, 65 total rush yards

The incorrect perception about Grant is that he is a speed runner that only can run off the edge. If asked to run between the tackles, he can do it. He did it last year. Yes, Mason carried the ball almost five times as much as Grant last year; Nick Marshall three times as much. The jury isn’t out if Grant can be an every-down back.

“I think he can (carry it 20, 25 times),” said Auburn running back coach Tim Horton. “Last year he had a role and he did it well to a tone of almost 10 yards a carry. “Without question he can be an every-down back.”

The coaching staff has said thus far that nothing has been determined as to who is going to start. Head coach Gus Malzahn indicated it could be exactly like last year: he throws both Grant and Artis-Payne out there and sees what happens.

Despite the massive impact Grant made on Auburn’s offense, on the biggest stage last year he wasn’t even a factor. In the BCS National Championship game, Grant rushed the ball just once and lost three yards.

He’s got to be chomping at the bit to get back out there.