Editor's Note: These lists feature our thoughts on the most important players for Auburn heading into the 2016 football season. We are counting down 16 key Tigers for the offense and 16 more for the defense as Coach Gus Malzahn's team prepares to face Clemson in the season opener.
Auburn, Ala.--He’s not the biggest or most physical running back on the roster, but there is no questioning the skills that sophomore Kerryon Johnson possesses heading into his second season with the Auburn Tigers.
A do-everything player who has great hands and a great feel how to play the game, Johnson carried the ball 52 times for 208 yards and scored three touchdowns last fall while also adding 14 receptions for 159 yards.
In addition to his role on offense, Johnson is a threat on special teams for the Tigers. As a freshman he returned 14 kickoffs for 386 yards (27.6 average) with his longest a 45 yarder.
Despite missing spring practice after having shoulder surgery to clean up problems following the season, Johnson is healthy and ready to go this fall. With a summer to build much-needed strength heading into the 2016 season, Johnson should see his numbers increase dramatically with Peyton Barber trying to make an NFL roster and Roc Thomas transferring to Jacksonville State.
Kerryon Johnson led his high school team, Madison Academy, to three state championships prior to playing for the Tigers.
Best Case Scenario: With the potential to get much more action as a sophomore it’s easy to project that Johnson’s totals will jump in year two. While senior Jovon Robinson will be the thumper of the group, Johnson should get more touches than last year and he has shown he is going to make good things happen when given the opportunity. Bigger and stronger than he was during his freshman season when he played at 195 pounds, the 6-0, 211-pound running back has a great opportunity for a breakout season.
Worst Case Scenario: The big question for Johnson is durability. He has had a shoulder problem before and already going through surgery at Auburn is reason for some concern for the Tigers, who don't have a lot of depth at running back this year. They need a healthy Johnson all the way through the season.
Career Comparison: Style-wise Johnson is similar to former Auburn and NFL player Ronnie Brown because of his versatility as a running back. With his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Johnson could become a major weapon for the Tigers just like Brown was in his final two seasons on the Plains.
Johnson At His Best: Auburn’s game at Kentucky showed just what he is capable of providing in just about every area. Returning four kickoffs for 111 yards, adding 36 rushing yards and catching one pass for 14 yards, Johnson’s production at every level of the offense is what he brings to the table for the Tigers.
Quote: “Kerryon is a young man that is football savvy and last year as a true freshman he was wildcat, he was a tailback, he was a slot,” Coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s the type that will be in every meeting. He’ll be focused. As far as schematically, he’ll get it...He’s a football savvy young man.”