By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton has lost his top running backs from last season, but he's not panicked.
"It's happened to me before," he said. "To be honest, that's one of the fun parts of coaching -- when you face some speed bumps, whatever they may be, you keep persevering and keep moving forward."
Gone are Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas. In their stead will be Kerryon Johnson, who'll take on a more prominent role; newcomers Kam Martin and Malik Miller; and former H-back Kamyrn Pettway and current H-back Chandler Cox.
A Tuesday scrimmage may help set the pecking order, but Horton says he's ready to go no matter what.
"I really think, at the end of the day, this is going to be an outstanding group of running backs," he said. "I'm really excited about the young men we have and think a great season is ahead for them."
Horton knows a little bit about plug-and-play running backs from his days at Arkansas. He lost 2010 leading-rusher Knile Davis and 2009 leading-rusher Broderick Green to injuries in the 2011 fall camp. The Razorbacks kept playing, rushing for 2,104 yards that season after rushing for 2,211 yard the year before.
"We had guys step up."
Now, Horton is looking to do it again with a new cast of characters, and is looking for the eighth 1,000-yard rusher in his college coaching career.
"I've enjoyed this group as much as any I've ever coached. They're quality young men," he said.
Johnson rushed for 208 yards last season on 52 carries. But not all of those carries were from the tailback position. He wasn't overworked in high school, either. His role is changing, but Horton says he won't wear him out.
"We're not going to ask Kerryon Johnson to be the only guy to carry the ball."
An alternative could be Pettway. He was an H-back last season -- and didn't get a carry. But, Horton said, "the first year we recruited Kam Pettway was as a tailback, and he was a really good tailback."
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Miller is a freshman who went through spring practice. Horton says he's better now than then.
"He has improved significantly," Hortons said. "He was a little banged up in the spring. He's trimmed down a little bit. He's a little bit quicker. He's running better. For someone who is a true freshman, he understands the offense as well as anybody on our team. He really has a great football intelligence. He's probably been as good a surprise as any because he's a better player today than when spring practice was over."
Kam Martin arrived late in the summer. Auburn signed him after Baylor released him from his scholarship.
"I'm really pleased how well he has picked things up. I'm really pleased how he's adjusted to the speed of the game," Horton said. "I think that's one of the things freshmen somehow struggle with. He's done very well. I don't think there's any question he'll play, he'll contribute and he'll have an important role on the team."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
Auburn running backs? They're practicing and in the mix for carries, says assistant coach Tim Horton. Video pic.twitter.com/ql6g1EWO9F
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