Auburn's Tre Mason is looking to prove he's the No. 1 back in the 2014 draft.
Mason, who left Auburn after his junior season, signed with agent Bus Cook on Friday. Cook also represents, among others, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron in this draft.
Mason ran for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013 -- the yardage total was the fifth-highest in the nation, and the TD total was tied for third-most. The yardage total was the third-highest in SEC history, behind only Herschel Walker (1,891 in 1981) and Darren McFadden (1,830 in 2007). The rushing TD total tied Tim Tebow for the most in a season in SEC history.
Mason was especially strong down the stretch, finishing the season with six consecutive 100-yard outings, including an epic 304-yard, four-TD performance in the SEC championship game and a 195-yard, one-TD effort in the national championship game.
"I'm not afraid to put my head and nose in there and get dirty," Mason said Jan. 9 as he declared for the draft. "I feel like I can run between the tackles and also outside the tackles. I just try to be very dynamic and run the ball different ways."
The NFL Draft Advisory Board gave Mason a third-round grade in December, but Cook thinks Mason is a potential first-rounder.
"At the end of the day, I think he's every bit as good as any other back in the country," Cook told al.com.
Mason will be out to make an impression at the combine, which begins Feb. 19 in Indianapolis. One positive for Mason is that he doesn't dance around looking for a hole -- he is very much a North-South runner. He also showed he was durable in 2013: Mason had three 20-plus carry games in his first two seasons but had nine in '13, including seven with at least 26 carries.
His receiving ability is a question, as is his size (he was listed at 5-foot-10 by Auburn but it will be interesting to see if his official measurements produce a different height). While quick, he lacks top-flight speed, and he often ran behind a fullback at Auburn. Can he succeed in a one-back offense, given his questionable receiving ability? Despite his strong season, Mason has a lot to prove in the next three months.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.