Auburn, Ala.--For the No. 8 Auburn Tigers (7-2, 5-1) the story this week should be about getting ready to face the Georgia Bulldogs (5-4, 3-4) in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, but instead it’s the health of Gus Malzahn’s team that is the focus heading into the week of practice.
Leading the way for that is on offense where quarterback Sean White, running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson plus wide receiver Tony Stevens have been hampered by injuries in recent weeks. White returned to action in the second half against Vanderbilt when the Tigers were struggling against the Commodores and Malzahn said he should be good to go this week, including throwing the ball in practice, something the head coach said he only did during warmups on Thursday last week.
"He'll start," Malzahn said of White. "He's not 100 percent or we would have started him last week, but he went in there and did a solid job. He'll be better this week than he was last week. We'll see how it goes in practice. Like I said last week, he didn't take any reps in practice. He did warm up on Thursday just to see what he could do, but he didn't get practice reps. He'll practice this week."
That’s big news for the Tigers considering the way White has played this season. Completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 1,617 yards and nine touchdowns and only two interceptions, White has become the unquestioned guy at the position for this Auburn offense.
The issue at running back is a different story. While Johnson looks to be improving coming off his ankle injury suffered in the win over Mississippi State, Pettway’s situation is uncertain as the Tigers get ready to face Georgia.
Pulling up on his final run of the game against Vanderbilt and re-injuring a quad muscle, the SEC’s leading rusher is expected to be a game-time decision and Malzahn said it will all be determined on how he looks throughout the week.
Still Auburn’s leading receiver with 24 receptions for 408 yards and three touchdowns, Stevens has missed the last two weeks with sore ribs. Malzahn said he continues to improve and they’re expecting him to be back on the field on Saturday.
"Tony's back," Malzahn said. "He's ready to go."
On the defensive side of the ball the Tigers will have DeShaun Davis back after sitting out the second half of the Vandy game after a very questionable ejection for targeting. He’s expected to get fellow linebacker and close friend Tre Williams back as well. Williams sat out last week’s game with a lower leg injury, but Malzahn said he’ll be ready to go.
That’s huge for the Tigers with the duo combining for 88 tackles this season, but more importantly because they are the two quarterbacks on defense for Coach Kevin Steele.
"Tre Williams will be back and obviously we get DeShaun back," Malzahn said. "That will help. Those guys are kind of our quarterbacks. Hat's off to the linebackers that took their place the other day, that was really impressive what they did quarterbacking the whole deal. We should have everybody back and ready to go defensively."