Former Auburn running back Tre Mason and coach Gus Malzahn took exception to the suggestion that Mason's blocking is an area of concern for NFL clubs evaluating the Tigers' star rusher. NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock mentioned blocking as a hole in Mason's game from Auburn's pro day.
"The next time he blocks somebody is going to be his first, and if wants to play on third down, he's going to have to clean that up," Mayock said.
Mason rushed for more than 1,600 yards in a stellar junior season to lead AU to a BCS championship game appearance. Draft projections on Mason have varied, and with the position becoming less of a draft-day emphasis, particularly in the early rounds, slotting Mason for a particular round is difficult.
Said Mason, according to the Montgomery Advertiser: "I feel like I shouldn't be criticized on it. I haven't given up many sacks at all the past two years that I played, and I feel like that's a strength of mine. But people knock me because of my size. ... But I feel like you don't block the hole in height-wise, you block it with how much heart you have."
Malzahn said he "wouldn't agree" with Mayock's assessment.
"He's got great courage. A lot of times, pass protection at the next level is about courage," Malzahn said. "He's a smart guy. He understands protections. The more he does it, the better he'll get."
A key distinction is to be made between whether Mason can block, and what he's proven as a blocker. While he might be a better blocker in the NFL that what would be expected of a 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back, his role at Auburn didn't include much blocking, at least not in the traditional pro-style sense. Fullback Jay Prosch handled much of the heavy lifting as a blocker in the Auburn run game. Meanwhile, Auburn threw less than any team in the SEC last season. In fact, AU was the only team in the league to throw fewer than 300 times, which left Mason with fewer opportunities to prove himself in blitz pickup.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.