Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn landed his first official signee on Wednesday, Dec. 19. And it was a big one.
“I chose Auburn because of the history of the school and because they put out a lot of great running backs,” Artis-Payne told Allan Hancock College Athletics. “I’m really excited about starting my Division I career.”
He stuck with the commitment he made to former RB coach Curtis Luper on Nov. 8 and signed with Malzahn and the Tigers. Artis-Payne will compete for the bulk of the carries right away.
Artis-Payne rushed for 25 TDs and 2,048 yards in 10 games this season for Allan Hancock Community College in California. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry. The Associated Press' John Zenor put those numbers into perspective for us.
New Auburn signee Cameron Artis-Payne ran for 2,048 yards, 25 TDs in 10 games last season. Tigers ran for 1781, 16 TDs in 12 games.— John Zenor (@jzenor) December 19, 2012
Although Artis-Payne played in a pro-style formation at Allan Hancock for the past two years, according to Joel Erickson, AL.com, he will be a perfect fit in Auburn's run-first spread offense
Artis-Payne reaffirmed his commitment after talking to Malzahn, who assured the runner that his offense is based around a two-back, power-running game, according to the sites that cover Auburn recruiting—AuburnUndercover.com, AuburnSports.com and Inside the Auburn Tigers.
The fears that surfaced in August when signee Jovon Robinson was ruled ineligible became reality in Auburn's 2012 campaign. The lack of a true power RB with a combination of size and speed was apparent all season long.
Auburn RB Tre Mason was the Tigers' featured back. He played last season at 198 pounds and stood 5'10". Mason had a fantastic season, relative to preseason expectations. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and ran hard all season long, despite Auburn's overall record and the outcomes of the last few SEC games.
Mason will still get a large chunk of carries, although he may be used more in a role similar to how Onterio McCalebb was used in Malzahn's offense. McCalebb's role was running the ball to the outside on speed sweeps and as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He will be a nice complement to Artis-Payne's inside running game.
Artis-Payne will be the biggest RB on Auburn's roster when he steps on campus in January. He played 2012 at 210 pounds and stood 5'11". While an additional inch and 12 pounds does not seem like a big difference, it goes a long way when trying to withstand a season's worth of thumping against 290-plus-pound defensive linemen and All-American LBs that call the middle of many SEC defenses home.
Artis-Payne will likely be used in the same way former Auburn RBs Ben Tate and Michael Dyer were used in Malzahn's offense from 2009 to 2011—that is, as a power back with speed running between the tackles and in pass protection.
According to Artis-Payne's father, David Payne (via Jay Tate, Auburnsports.com): "What Coach Malzahn has told him is that he wants to give him the ball 15 or 20 times, and if he does, he will make a big difference."
I'm sure Malzahn also mentioned that he has had nine 1,000-yard rushers in his offense in seven seasons at the college level.
One look at Artis-Payne's highlight reel and it's obvious why he will be a big piece of Auburn's offensive game plan in 2013. His cutting ability and vision really stand out as well as his physical running style.
Not only will Artis-Payne be a perfect fit on the field, he'll be a good fit off the field as well. He will have the maturity level that comes with being in college for two years prior to making the move to a major college program.
It is very easy for a freshman to get caught up in all that comes with being a major player in a big-time college football program. Artis-Payne's father said that should not be a worry with his son (via Jay Tate, Auburnsports.com).
He's not a guy that's going to be hanging at parties all the time, he doesn't do any of that. He works out two or three times a day right now with a trainer. He's not a verbal leader, he may say some things to get you to pay attention, but he leads by example. If you want it, follow him.
Auburn may not be done with its recruiting at the RB position. It also has a commitment from 4-Star RB Jordan Wilkins. Many recruiting analysts call it a soft commitment due to other schools pursuing Wilkins.
Auburn is making a push for top RB Derrick Greene as well. Auburn will likely accept up to three RB commitments in the 2013 class.
Regardless of the other potential commitments, Auburn has already found a perfect fit at the RB position for its offense next year. Artis-Payne will have an immediate impact in Auburn's offense.
Who knows? Maybe Artis-Payne will turn out as good as the last person to transfer to Auburn from a junior college named Cameron.