Auburn, Ala.--The ninth-leading returning rusher in the SEC, Jovon Robinson was expected to carry much of the load for the Auburn Tigers this season, but on Wednesday he was dismissed from the team by Coach Gus Malzahn.
That leaves the running game with plenty of question marks this preseason, but for starting left tackle Austin Golson it’s all about putting the team first and that’s the most important thing.
“I mean, we all support Coach's decision,” Golson said. “No one player is going to be able to take down our team. I believe that we're going to respond well and just keep practicing. We have plenty of other options that will be able to help us out. I think we're all going to be fine.”
One of the leaders on offense for the Tigers, senior wide receiver Marcus Davis has been a team spokesman almost since he stepped on campus four years ago. Now being counted on to guide the way for the offense, Davis said while the loss of Robinson is a big it’s not something that will impact the direction of this team.
“I mean, like I said, Jovon is a great guy, great teammate and everything, but we just focus on what’s best for the team and whatever Coach Malzahn says,” Davis said. “That’s really what we’re going with. It’s nothing I sat down and thought about yet, but at the same time if Coach Malzahn thinks it’s best for the team I’m pretty sure everybody will be on board with that.”
Now Auburn turns to sophomore Kerryon Johnson as the likely starter heading into the season opener against Clemson on Sept. 3. He carried the ball 52 times for 208 yards and scoring three touchdowns a year ago as a true freshman. Now up to 211 pounds, the former Mr. Football in Alabama is a guy who Golson predicts can get the job done.
“I think he could be one of the best in the SEC,” Golson said. “He proved last year that he's elusive and stuff. Like I said, he wasn't here this spring, but I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he'll do great for us this year.”
During his high school career at Madison Academy, Johnson ran for 5,274 yards and scored 109 total touchdowns while sharing time with Malik Miller his final three years with the Mustangs. Now he’ll get a chance to be much more involved in the running game, but he won’t be the only one.
A player who signed with Auburn as a running back out of Prattville, redshirt sophomore Kamryn Pettway saw action as a fullback last year. Getting work at running back in the spring along with Chandler Cox, Pettway showed the coaches enough that he had already been slated to play the position this fall. Now with Robinson gone that role will be stepped up even more, something former Prattville teammate Golson said is exciting for him.
“I think he'll do just fine,” Golson said. “He's a very big, fast, strong and athletic guy. I think he'll have the chance to help us a lot, along with Kerryon and Malik and Kam (Kameron Martin). I think we'll have plenty of depth and stuff at running back.
“We've got all kind of tools and running backs back there,” he added. “The freshman, Malik, came in the spring so he's got a leg up and kind of knows what's going on. Kam is just getting here. Kerryon has a year under his belt, and he's getting back healthy. I really have a lot of faith in our backfield. That's not really one of my worries, because I know we're going to be able to run the ball.”
Kamryn Pettway could pack a punch at running back for the Tigers
As a senior at Prattville, Pettway ran for over 1,400 yards and scored 17 touchdowns while also serving as a blocking back at times for a pair of sophomore backs. That group included incoming Michigan freshman running back Kingston Davis.
A speedster from Texas who originally signed with Baylor before getting his release, Kameron Martin is a player that would likely fill more of a speed back role this season for the Tigers, but could get some work as a true tailback. Another freshman, Miller is a physical runner who could excel between the tackles.
In addition to those options Auburn could also look at incoming freshman Stephen Davis Jr. at the running back position. Listed as a defensive back on the initial preseason roster, the 6-3, 206 Davis was with the offense on day one, however, and wearing a blue jersey. Showing some promise at the running back position as a senior before an injury cut his season short, Davis Jr. is a player that could add to the depth in the backfield this season.
Kameron Martin, Nate Craig and Stephen Davis Jr. watch Wednesday's practice. Martin and Davis Jr. are both players that could help at the running back position this season.