Auburn, Ala.--In preseason, despite a major shakeup in the running back situation for the Tigers, Tim Horton predicted that Auburn could have two 1,000-yard rushers this season.
The running backs coach made that comment despite losing three key backs from 2015. The team’s leading rusher, Peyton Barber, left early for the NFL. The projected starter, Jovon Robinson, was kicked off the team and the other experienced back, Roc Thomas, transferred.
With two games to play this season Auburn’s running back coach’s prediction has a chance to become a reality. Sophomore Kamryn Pettway, despite playing in just eight games due to injury, has 1,106 yards and Kerryon Johnson is in striking distance of 1,000 with 823 yards.
Asked if he believes it can happen, Johnson, a sophomore from Madison Academy, says, “I think we can. I think it’s definitely, definitely in the possibility with me closing in now. Pettway did his job so it’s definitely possible.”
Giving his take on why Horton made the prediction, Johnson said, “He sees us on a daily basis. He knows our talent. He has seen us both in practice all the time. He knew what we were capable of. A lot of fans, a lot of people, they don’t get to see that kind of stuff.
“One thing about Coach Horton is he is always going to have confidence no matter who is in there,” Johnson pointed out. “He wouldn’t put us out there otherwise. He knew what he saw. He has seen a lot of great running backs come through and I guess that he just thought we could do it. He might be right.”
Pettway, who is expected to return this week after missing the past two games with a strained quadriceps, is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
Kamryn Pettway's move to tailback from fullback in spring training has added punch to the running attack.
Johnson, who has been battling a high ankle sprain most of the season, is averaging 5.0 yards per run. He noted that he is “getting real close” to being full speed.
“These past two weeks were the best I felt in a long time so I’m definitely on the brink of it,” he said.
The Tigers will need everything they can get from Johnson and Pettway this Saturday for the regular season finale at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama is the nation’s number one ranked team and stopping the run is the Tide’s strength. Opponents are averaging just 2.2 yards per carry and 68.9 rushing yards per game.
Johnson said it is a good thing to have Pettway back in the mix. “It means a lot,”?he said. “It means that I won’t be as tired, I hope . When you get another 1,000 rusher back that is obviously a huge deal. He is a very physical guy, very big guy so just to have both of us back there together again will be nice.”