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Stewart hopes to be AU's next Ronnie Brown

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Stewart hopes to be AU's next Ronnie Brown

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


News staff writer

AUBURN - Carl Stewart won't demand a retraction if you call him a fullback, but, just for accuracy sake, and for his peace of mind, please refer to him as an F-back.

Though the positions may sound the same, there's a big difference between the two in Auburn's offense.

A fullback at Auburn may get one carry a year.

An F-back may turn out to be Ronnie Brown.

That's what happened two years ago when Brown teamed with tailback Carnell Williams to make one of the most powerful running duos in the country. Auburn, which hardly ran the F-back formation last year, is returning to it because Stewart has grown big enough to handle the running and blocking responsibilities of the position and is quick enough to sneak out of the backfield to catch passes.

He'll team with tailback Kenny Irons to provide Auburn's newest one-two punch.

"He's bigger, he's stronger, he's faster, and he's always been smarter," said offensive coordinator Al Borges. "He's the guy, I think, in some way, shape or form we've got to find a way to get him the ball. We've got to manufacture some ways to get him the ball and get him in the game."

Borges envisions Stewart as a Ronnie Brown-type player.

"Those are some big shoes to fill," Stewart says.

A Brown-type player beats what traditional fullbacks are asked to do in Borges' offense. Last year's starting fullback, Cooper Wallace, didn't get a single carry but four wide receivers combined for 11 carries. In 2004, fullback Jake Slaughter had one carry - the same number as punter Kody Bliss.

Walk-on Andrew Turman from Hoover High School may get first crack at playing the traditional fullback position. As history suggests, that means he'll get to block.

Stewart came to Auburn as a self-described scat-back, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound runner who could move. He now tips the scale at 235. Oddly, he is being teamed with the anti-Carl Stewart in the F-back spot. Could there be anybody more different to share the position than 5-foot-10, 195-pound Tre Smith?

Borges says he'll figure out a way to play his Odd Couple, promise. In the meantime, Stewart says he had to grow accustomed to having his body reshaped.

"A lot of guys can tell you over the summer, I had a few back problems and everything was weighing me down. It's a lot to get used to. Once I got used to it, I was fine," he said.

Stewart wouldn't mind growing into a player such as Brown, who could match Williams' tailback skills and played that position, too. Brown rushed for 913 yards his final year in 2004.

Stewart gained 151 yards on 42 carries last year, but those totals figure to go since Auburn won't feel obligated to play four wide receivers, as it did last year when that position was its strength. This year, wide receivers are an unknown and Stewart is a known F-back.

"This year, we're leaning toward going back to it a little bit more," Borges said. "I just believe, from an offensive perspective, you've got to decide which guys give you the best chance to move the ball, and they've got to be in the game most of the time."

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