'The top guy in whole country:' Auburn likes new backs

Feb. 5, 2014

RocThomas
Running back Roc Thomas is a ready to go for Auburn

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- Roc Thomas and Kamryn Pettway didn't suddenly jump at the chance to sign with Auburn when Tre Mason announced he was leaving school early for the NFL. 

They had made the move long before that. 

The two running backs signed with the Tigers on Wednesday with more than 3,600 yards and 49 touchdowns between them during their senior year in high school. 

"The thing about both Kam and Roc Thomas is they were both committed to us before Tre had the great season," says running backs coach Tim Horton. "They wanted to be Auburn Tigers before we had the best running back in the country. I like the fact that they really want to be here. In the future and in the Class of 2015 and beyond, when you have an SEC Player of the Year that plays tailback for Running Back U, that's not a bad deal." 

Auburn returns sturdy Cameron Artis-Payne and the fleet Corey Grant at tailback and has an intriguing mix of younger players in Peyton Barber and Rudy Ford. 

The Tigers can officially add Thomas and Pettway, along with H-back Jakell Mitchell, who missed his senior year at Opelika High after suffering a knee injury. 

Thomas was ranked as high as the second high school tailback in the nation during the recruiting season, depending on who you asked, and here's why: The 5-foot-11, 200-pound tailback rushed for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns last season at Oxford High School in Alabama, averaging a more-than-nifty 9.8 yards per carry. He was named Mr. Football in the state by the Alabama Sports Writers Association and was the Gatorade Player of the Year. 

"In our opinion, he's the top guy in the whole country," said Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "We felt from Day One that, not only was he the best in the state at that position, him and Kam. 

"He has a great combination of speed and elusiveness. You watch his highlights and it seems like he breaks five to 10 tackles per run. He has great home run ability. He's tough. He can shoulder a heavy load. We just think he's a dynamic runner." 

Horton sees the same thing. 

"He's really an impressive player on video, as impressive as any I've seen coming out," he said. "He has great speed and quickness and vision. He can accelerate. We are looking forward to getting him here." 

Pettway, who is 6-foot, 230, rushed for 1,402 yards and 17 touchdowns last year at Prattville High School. He's a national Top 20 running back, too, says ESPN and PrepStar. 

"We think he has a great chance to fit into our system," Lashlee said. "He has a great combination of speed and power. He might remind fans of Ben Tate-type running back. He can really run downhill. At the same time, he has a lot better speed than people realize. 

"In Kam and Roc, we feel like we got the two best backs in the state of Alabama. They not only can run the ball, they can catch it, too. They can be every-down backs. We feel like they will really complement each other." 

Horton says Pettway is a "different style than what you see with Roc. You are going to see a big, strong, physical, north-south downhill runner. He can do a lot of things, which is catch the football out of the backfield or block or do what he does best and run the football." 

 Mitchell is a bit of a mystery. He missed his senior year at Opelika because of a knee injury. As an H-back, he'll have a different role than Thomas and Pettway. He had 17 rushing touchdowns as a junior. 

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: