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'Whatever we need': Auburn's Kerryon Johnson ready to go
Kerryon Johnson says he's ready to step up for Auburn
Aug. 4, 2016

AUBURN, Ala. Bigger, stronger and just as quick.

Coach Gus Malzahn says there's more to like about sophomore Kerryon Johnson this preseason camp as the running back positions himself to win more carries this fall.

"He's got a year under his belt of knowing what's going on, and he's just a more confident player,'' Malzahn said after Auburn's second preseason practice Thursday.

Johnson is Auburn's leading returning rusher with 208 yards. Opportunity awaits for more, now that Jovon Robinson was dismissed from the team Wednesday.

Johnson did a little bit of everything last year, lining up at tailback, slot receiver, Wildcat quarterback and kickoff returner. He said Thursday his early focus this fall is running back, and not the opening-day news of Robinson leaving the team.

"There's no time for it. I'm focused on football, meetings and practice. I'll let other people handle that stuff. It doesn't have anything to do with me. I've got my own job to do,'' Johnson said.

Johnson, who didn't practice in the spring following shoulder surgery, checks in at 6-feet, 211 pounds. He says that's plenty big to be an every-down back.

"I think I can be whatever we need to win,'' Johnson said. "If we need that guy, somebody has to step up and do it, and why not me? I've had durability issues and people have questioned that throughout. I can't worry about what other people say, I just have to do my own job. That's the question somebody has to answer, whether that be me or somebody else, it doesn't matter. As long as this team gets that we'll be fine.''

Johnson suddenly finds himself in line for more carries after the departure of Robinson, as well as the departures of Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber, who left the team after last fall. Now, Johnson and Kamryn Pettway "the two older guys,'' Malzahn said have moved up.

"Days ago we're looking at our own specific roles on the team and then a day goes by, a lunch goes by, and now we're thrown into the spotlight,'' Johnson said. "Neither one of us is that type of guy. We're going to practice the same way we did before. We know what we did to get here and we know what's going to take us further. We look at it no differently than anything else.''

Malzahn said Thursday that Johnson, Pettway and Chandler Cox have looked good early.

"Malik Miller is another guy: He is much improved from the spring. He really stood up to me in a positive way the first two days, too. We've got some guys battling,'' Malzahn said.

Johnson said he envisions his role as "the same as it was last year, being the speed guy on the outside, special teams definitely, just fitting in wherever I can and catching passes like I did, but just doing it better and doing it more. Now, obviously, that has changed. I'm still going to do the same things I did before.''

Johnson, Auburn's fourth leading rusher and fifth leading receiver last season, said he and running back coach Tim Horton haven't talked about a change of roles. Johnson said they didn't have to do that.

"Coach Horton is a smart man,'' Johnson said. "He understands; he knows I know what that entails. He doesn't need to tell me, obviously the load has increased. We talked very lightly about it, but he knows I know my responsibility. He knows that we have other people on the team as well that are going to step up. He knows that I'm going to step up. There's not much to talk about.''



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

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