Auburn, Ala.--Following Peyton Barber's 24-carry, 115-yard effort in Auburn’s season opener against Louisville, Coach Gus Malzahn said the sophomore is a player that did some good things in his first true opportunity with the Tigers.
With both Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson slowed this week after suffering minor ankle injuries on Saturday it should be another opportunity for Barber to get plenty of work this weekend when the Tigers take on Jacksonville State in the home opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We’re very excited about him and the way he played,” Malzahn said. “He got stronger as the game went on. He got 20-plus carries and it was a grind-it-out game. A lot of those were tough yards and he protected the football.”
In addition to Barber’s expected work this weekend it should also be the chance for the first look at top running back recruit Kerryon Johnson. Used as a decoy on several plays last week, Johnson is finally back closer to full speed after dealing with a strained hamstring in camp and Malzahn said it’s time to see what he can do.
“He’ll definitely play this week and play the rest of the season,” Malzahn said of Johnson. “We feel like he’s one of those guys that is extremely talented, he just needs the experience. We’ll definitely have him out there the rest of the year.”
While Johnson’s time is coming the time is now for Barber. After waiting his turn for two years he has no better opportunity to stake his claim on being Auburn’s top running back than right now. Even though Thomas and Robinson should both be available it’s hard to imagine either would get a huge workload this weekend, meaning Barber has the first crack to put his stamp on the position.
“We’ll see how this thing plays out the next couple of weeks,” Malzahn said. “We’re very excited about Peyton and what he did. We feel good about the other two that played the other day. They got a little banged up, but they should be fine. Of course you have Kerryon back to being healthy. We feel like we have four guys and they’re all just a little bit different and that’s usually a good thing.”
Auburn will face Jacksonville State at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game can be seen on SEC Network.