Auburn, Ala.--Don't blame Kerryon Johnson if he doesn't pay attention to the people who say he's too small or that he has durability issues. After all, that's been the knock on him dating back to his early high school days at Madison Academy. All the running back has done along the way is help his team to three state titles and win Alabama's Mr. Football.
Now comes perhaps his biggest challenge yet. With Jovon Robinson dismissed from the Auburn Tigers program, Johnson is in line to be the starting tailback for the Tigers and perhaps have to carry the load in the rough and tumble SEC. Always one to take on a challenge head first, Johnson said when the news came out about Robinson being off the team he knew exactly what that meant and he didn't need position Coach Tim Horton to spell it out for him.
"Coach Horton is a smart man," Johnson said. "Me and Coach Horton have a great relationship. He understands, he knows I know what that entails. He doesn’t need to tell me, obviously the load has increased. We talked very lightly about it, but he knows I know my responsibility. He knows that we have other people on the team as well that are going to step up. He knows that I’m going to step up. There’s not much to talk about.”
Now weighing in at 211 pounds, up 16 from a season ago, Johnson said he's more prepared for life in the SEC. His Head Coach Gus Malzahn agrees with him, saying that his sophomore back looks like he's ready to go this season for the Tigers.
"He’s stronger, he’s put on a lot of muscle," Johnson said. "He’s still just as quick. Anytime you’re a true freshman, that first full year really helps. Even though he didn’t go through spring, he was still able to train. He’s got a year under his belt of knowing what’s going on, and he’s just a more confident player."
That confidence for Johnson comes from success at every level. Rushing for more than 5,000 yards in high school and scoring more than 100 touchdowns, all while splitting time with Auburn freshman back Malik Miller, he has been a force with the ball in his hands. Stepping into a role that has been filled with 1,000-yard rushers like Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Peyton Barber the last three years, Johnson said he's ready to show what he can do.
“Obviously that’s a big challenge," Johnson said. "A thousand yards a season for the past however many seasons is a big challenge, but I’ve never doubted myself. Never in my life have I doubted myself. I believe I can do it.
"I believe we can have two thousand yard rushers, however many we need to do to win that’s we’re going to do. I believe I can be a thousand yard rusher. I believe Pettway can be a thousand yard rusher. I believe Chandler (Cox), Malik, Kam Martin, all of us can do it. Talk is cheap though. We have to go out and do it come Sept. 3.”