AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -Brad Lester is definitely Auburn's No. 1 tailback. Says so on his jersey.
Of course, that has no actual bearing on his status. And Auburn's depth chart is not nearly as clear as the number on Lester's jersey.
``I don't know that we have a No. 1 back right now,'' Coach Tommy Tuberville said Friday. ``They're all just beat up, sore. We'll have a No. 1 back when we come out of the second scrimmage. They're all about the same.''
That means the competition between Lester, sophomore Ben Tate and redshirt freshman Mario Fannin to replace Kenny Irons as the starter will continue at least through next week.
Tuberville has plenty of time to figure out who will get the ball first against Kansas State on Sept. 1.
``There's no reason to name anybody now,'' he said. ``It'll change four or five times.''
All that is news to Lester, who said running backs coach Eddie Gran has told him he's the Tigers' starter.
``That's the first time I've heard that,'' Lester said. ``Coach Gran told me I was (first-team), but I haven't heard that from Coach Tubs yet. I guess I'll have to go out (Saturday) and prove it different.
``That's a good thing. I'm glad he's doing that. That's going to push me to run harder and work harder. I want that No. 1 spot. Come that first game, I'm going to show I can handle that spot.''
That attitude shows the benefits of keeping the competition alive entering Auburn's first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Lester, a junior, is easily the most experienced of the contenders. He has run for 869 yards mostly as Irons' backup the past two seasons.
Tate gained 392 yards as a freshman, posting two 100-yard games.
``I definitely think I'm in the mix,'' Tate said.
The 5-foot-11, 219-pound Fannin is a speedy, hard-hitting former high school quarterback.
``He could be the starter. He's doing good,'' Tuberville said. ``They're all doing good, though. It's going to be running back by committee this year. It's kind of like Ronnie (Brown) and Carnell (Williams) and Brad and Kenny last year. You'll have a starter, but you'll also have guys that are going to be just as good and get as many (repetitions).''
The Tigers have had a steady stream of star runners. Williams and Brown were both NFL first-rounders. Irons was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round this year, where he joined former Auburn back Rudi Johnson, but will miss the season after tearing a knee ligament during an exhibition game.
Auburn's current group brings impressive credentials. Tate finished his prep career as Maryland's all-time rushing leader with 5,920 career yards, including a state-record 2,886 as a junior.
Fannin had 1,000 yards both passing and rushing as a prep senior in Georgia.
Lester has rushed for 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry during his career.
Senior Carl Stewart, a hybrid fullback/tailback, has missed most of fall camp with a hamstring injury. He scored both of Auburn's touchdowns in a Cotton Bowl win over Nebraska.
``Competition definitely makes you better,'' Tate said. ``With all the competition the cream will rise to the top eventually. There's a lot of competition out there, and it's definitely making us all better. I think we'll have one of the best running back groups in the SEC, if not the country.''
Tiger Tales: Tuberville said the Tigers will run about 125 plays during Saturday's scrimmage. The scrimmage is closed to the public and the media. It will include the 25-second clock and live kicking. ``We're going to do it all. We've just got to get as much on film as we can and see where we're at,'' Tuberville said. ... NT Tez Doolittle hurt his right foot in practice Friday and was scheduled to have it examined. ... Blake Field rested a sore throwing shoulder, and tailback Tristan Davis was sidelined with ``turf toe,'' Tuberville said. Field will play in the scrimmage, he said.

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