Coaches on the staffs of Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik have raved about his athletic ability. They talked about the need to get him the football because of his explosiveness and versatility.
Yet the first two years of Fannin's Auburn career have consisted mostly of him sitting on the sideline, patiently waiting for his opportunity.
Fannin said he thinks this will be the year he finally emerges into the spotlight. At the same time, he maintains the cool attitude that has helped him move beyond the past two years.
"That's up to the coaches. That's in their hands, but hopefully I am (going to break out)," he said. "I just thank them for the opportunity they give me at that position I'm in. I'm just trying to learn it and execute it well."
If Fannin is to enjoy a career season, he will likely do so at his third position in three years. Fannin started his career as a tailback before moving to receiver last year. This year, he will likely play H-back — a hybrid of tailback, fullback and tight end.
Just in case, Fannin has spent time in the spring and fall learning the offense at tailback, slot receiver and H-back.
"I kind of like moving around," he said. "It's not really about what I like. Whatever is going to help us win, that's what I want to do."
The spring game did little to dispel the idea that Fannin is on track for a big year. The junior caught a team-high four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. He also had a pair of carries for 22 yards.
Still, the idea that Fannin is a talented offensive player is hardly
groundbreaking. Translating that to regular opportunity and production, conversely, would be.
There was the South Florida game during his redshirt freshman year when Fannin rushed 14 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. However, he fumbled on consecutive snaps during the fourth quarter, prompting his benching. Not that it's been entirely Fannin's fault.
After that game, he strung together three contests where he rushed for 219 yards and scored four touchdowns. When Brad Lester returned from an academic suspension, though, offensive coordinator Al Borges called Fannin's number less and less. He carried the ball more than four times just once after Lester returned — during Auburn's blowout win over Tennessee Tech.
Tony Franklin took over the offense for the bowl game and immediately praised Fannin for his versatility. Franklin used him in the receiver and tailback capacities during the Chick-fil-A Bowl and during the spring.
A dislocated shoulder suffered during a scrimmage, though, prompted Franklin and Tuberville to move Fannin to receiver on a full-time basis. The move, they hoped, would keep him on the field because he would be less likely to get injured.
Fannin didn't fit the position especially well and the experiment didn't last long. When Tuberville fired Franklin six games into the 2008 season, he immediately moved Fannin back to tailback. Still, Fannin remained underutilized until the Georgia game.
During the near-upset, Fannin accounted for 107 yards of total offense on just 12 touches. He also scored two Auburn touchdowns for an otherwise stagnant offense.
On the game's final drive, though, Fannin was nowhere to be seen. He couldn't explain the move after the game. Coaches, meanwhile, pointed fingers at each other as to why Fannin was on the sideline instead of on the field during the game's decisive minutes.
Auburn lost the game and, less than a month later, Tuberville resigned as coach.
Despite the inconsistent playing time, Fannin said waiting to fulfill his potential hasn't been especially difficult.
"My mom always tells me be anxious for nothing," Fannin said. "A lot of people ask me about it and I just tell them the same thing: If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. You can't really force it. It's something that just happens. I'm just taking my time and playing every play to the fullest."
Once the new offensive coaching staff took shape, one of the first things they did was declare Fannin would play a bigger role in the offense. Before spring practice even began, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had already started talking up Fannin's athleticism and versatility.
Other coaches echoed Malzahn's sentiments, acknowledging that the Tigers must find ways to utilize him.
"He's one of the best players on our football team, so we've got to get him the football," running backs coach Curtis Luper said.
Fannin has heard that message before.
He's hoping this time the coaches will stick with it.