Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a bye week, the No. 21 Auburn Tigers got back to work on Sunday night with an hour and a half practice in shorts and shoulder pads as Coach Gus Malzahn’s team prepares to face Arkansas on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Injuring his ankle against Mississippi State the last game out, sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson was on crutches last week as the Tigers practiced three days before taking the weekend off. With the team back on the field Sunday, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said it was good to see Johnson back in action.
“He was out there, all the guys were out there,” Lashlee said of Auburn’s leading rusher. “He was moving around and ran the ball some and caught some balls. It was good to see him out there moving around.”
Carrying the ball 105 times for 538 yards and six touchdowns, Johnson is currently seventh in the SEC in rushing with teammate Kamryn Pettway fourth, averaging 101 yards per game. Lashlee said while it’s not a guarantee that he’ll have the Madison, Ala. native back on the field Saturday he does feel confident it will happen.
“I feel pretty good,” Lashlee said. “Got to see him move around today and it’s a day-to-day thing but after today I feel like he’s got a shot just knowing the kid like I do. We’ll see as the week goes on but I’m optimistic.”
The running back position isn’t the only one on offense where injuries are a concern because the offensive line is still a question mark heading into the week because of the ankle injury to starting center Xavier Dampeer.
Missing the last two games has allowed Austin Golson to slide back inside to center with Darius James filling in capably at left tackle. With Dampeer back on the practice field the Tigers have a decision to make on the direction of the line, but Lashlee gave no hints on Sunday night.
“We’re doing like we do every week,” Lashlee said of the front five. “We’re mixing and matching guys for scenarios that could come up. I think he’s getting closer to 100 percent. I don’t know if he’s 100 percent, but I don’t know if anybody is to be honest with you. He’s better, he’s moving around pretty good. We feel like we’ve got all of those guys ready to roll however we need to do it.”
Saying the team had a good workout on Sunday, Lashlee said the practice allowed them to knock some of the rust off after a two-day break. Getting an early start on the gameplan with some work on Arkansas, he said the team has had a good bye week and now it’s time to get down to business.
“We got a lot of work with the guys that were needed it that were healthy and the guys that were banged up after six games we were able to be as smart as we could with them,” Lashlee said. “For this point of the season, six games in, I think we’re in decent shape for the stretch run. Now it’s just a matter of having a really good week and getting ready to go.”null