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Balls on the ground get Luper's attention

Mario Fannin

AUBURN – Teaching players not to fumble is part of running backs coach Curtis Luper’s job description. And that’s why seeing the ball on the ground can ruin his day
Luper teaches running backs, receivers, even linemen the basics of hanging on to the ball when big, strong and fast men are intent on taking it away. Three times in Auburn’s 35-27 victory over South Carolina last Saturday, runners turned loose of the ball. Mario Fannin and Mike Dyer lost fumbles that led to South Carolina touchdowns. Eric Smith fumbled, but Auburn retained possession when a South Carolina defender couldn’t scoop it up and knocked it out of bounds.

Luper didn’t like any of it. He has shown each of the three players individually what happened.

“With Mike, that’s the first time he’s put the ball on the ground since he’s been here,” Luper said. “It’s not a chronic problem, but we want to make sure we nip it in the bud. He was elevated, off his feet, exposed to the defense. That’s his issue. He naturally has good ball security. I would like for him to stay on the ground, keep both feet on the ground.

“Our guys were fired up and we were attacking them, trying to take them on head on. We lead with our shoulder. We don’t lead with our head. That in turn protects the ball because it keeps the ball on the side instead of in front. Eric had the ball in front. He and we were very fortunate on that one.”

Fannin’s left shoulder was in a harness, making it difficult for him to put both hands on the ball. The harness is gone, and Lupr said he hopes to see something different when the No. 11 Tigers (4-0, 2-0) play Louisiana-Monroe (1-2) Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“He’s working everywhere just like he always does,” Luper said. “It’s just a matter of health for him, to get him back 100 percent so he can get some confidence back. Hopefully, we can get him in the game this week and get in the flow and he can get some of his confidence back and we can get it back in him.”

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