Auburn, Ala.--One of the top rushing offenses in the country and coming off a 543-yard effort against Arkansas, the Auburn Tigers should have one of their biggest weapons back this weekend at Ole Miss with the return of sophomore Kerryon Johnson.
Sitting out last week while resting a sore ankle suffered in the win over Mississippi State, Johnson is expected to be on the field Saturday said Coach Gus Malzahn.
“He practiced yesterday and he’s really close,” Malzahn said on whether Johnson is 100 percent. “He will play this Saturday, there is no doubt about that. He’s close and we’re trying to be smart about it. Last week was really good, him not having to play.”
That would be a big boost for the offense with Johnson second on the team in rushing for 538 yards this season and adding six touchdowns. Combine that with Kamryn Pettway’s 697 yards and six touchdowns and throw in speedsters Stanton Truitt and Kameron Martin and you have a deep and talented group said Malzahn.
“One of the big questions this year coming into the season was our running back depth,” he said. “I think it was a really good thing moving forward that we had the guys that we had step up. They did a super job running the football and protecting the football, so we definitely have some depth to that position.”
That wasn’t the case in the preseason with more questions than answers surrounding the position for the Tigers with the losses of Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson, but Malzahn said they felt good based on what they knew they had in at least two guys.
“We thought Kerryon Johnson was a guy that could be a marquee back and we really felt great about Pettway after the spring,” Malzahn said. “He played tailback in high school and of course our need last year was more of H-Back, but he made that transition very well.
“Really we felt good going into the year with those two guys, but it was just the freshmen and getting those guys some reps. It was more of the young guys, that was our question about them stepping up.”
Averaging 302.9 yards rushing per game this season with 21 scores on the ground, the Tigers will look to continue that on Saturday against an Ole Miss defense that is giving up 229 yards per game on the ground at an average of 5.2 yards per attempt.
Only twice has Ole Miss held an opponent under 200 yards rushing, 161 to Florida State in the opener and 119 to Memphis. Against the three best rushing teams they have played this season the Rebels allowed 334 yards to Alabama, 230 yards to Georgia and 311 yards to LSU. They’ve also given up 248 yards to Wofford and 200 to Arkansas this season.
Kickoff for Saturday is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.