Auburn, Ala.--The health of Auburn quarterback Sean White and running back Kamryn Pettway has been a storyline for the Tigers since late in the year, but sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson has battled his share of problems as well.
Suffering a high ankle sprain in the win over Mississippi State, Johnson has played at less that full speed for much of the 2016 football season. On Monday he said that’s all behind him.
“I'm 100 percent now,” Johnson said. “I just feel a lot better than where I was, even though I was feeling really good the last three weeks. I just feel myself being close to normal.”
Having Johnson back healthy along with White and Pettway has brought a different pep to the step of the Tigers during practices for the Sugar Bowl, and with good reason. With the three of them on the field, even with Johnson slowed, Auburn’s offense performed at a high level during the middle of the season.
Johnson said now that everyone is back you can see a different attitude in practice.
“It almost feels like a new team,” the sophomore said. “We were kind of drained out, and now it's like we have new guys in there really. When you operate at 100 percent, your explosion is better, everything is better.
“Your energy is up," he added. "We've been doing really well. You can definitely tell having those guys back has really helped.
Averaging 42 points and 538.8 yards of total offense per game in wins over LSU, ULM, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Ole Miss, the Tigers were rolling and the play of White was a big reason why.
In those five games he completed 68-94 (72.3 percent) for 996 yards and five touchdowns and one interception, coming on a Tony Stevens drop at Mississippi State. That doesn’t include his 10-13 performance for a touchdown in a half against Vanderbilt when he came off the bench.
That puts his totals for six games at 78-107 (72.8 percent) for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns. In the other six games the Tigers totaled just 943 yards passing and five touchdowns, completing just 78-155 passes for 56 percent.
Auburn is hoping the return of a healthy White can turn the offense around as his team gets ready to face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 and Johnson said he’s seen that guy once again.
“He's looked like the weeks before he got injured,” Johnson said. “Excellent thrower. Smart guy. Leadership has been on point as always. He really looks like the guy we came into the season with, looking up to, and who played the majority of the season”
With three more practice days on campus before breaking for Christmas, Johnson said he likes what he’s seen from the Tigers as they get ready to face the Sooners." I think the break we had after the last game has really gotten us reenergized and refocused, and we've executed at a high level.”