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Auburn likes the running of Roc Thomas and company
Aug. 12, 2015

Auburn's Roc Thomas has been 'consistent and the steadiest' among the running backs in preseason camp

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. The team that has produced the last two SEC rushing champions is on the prowl for a third straight. Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Wednesday he likes the candidates who are waiting to follow in the footsteps of Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne.

Lashlee said he's encouraged after a Monday run-oriented scrimmage and now a week-plus of preseason practice as he sized up the play of Roc Thomas, Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and Kerryon Johnson.

"Roc," Lashlee said, "has probably been the most consistent and the steadiest. I've just been really pleased with his toughness, his ability to pass protect, his ability to get north-south and really, if it's third-and-1-to-2, really hammer it in there. And then when there's chances for those electric plays, do that."

Thomas is the leading returner rusher, though he had a modest 214 yards. Lashlee knows the questions about Thomas.

"'Is he durable enough? Can he hold up for a full season? Can he carry it 25 times a game?' We don't know that yet," Lashlee said. "Obviously, he's over 200 pounds. He's 5-11. He's a good-sized. It's just that his style of play lends people to think that he's a finesse player. But what we're learning is that's not the case at all."

Lashlee said Barber "has done an extremely nice job. You can just tell he's very comfortable. He's very confident."

"Jovon Robinson is continuing to come along. And then Kerryon Johnson has been very impressive for a true freshman."

Robinson was the top junior college running back last season, and comes to Auburn after rushing for 3,198 yards the last two years at Georgia Military.

"I think he knows what to do. He's just kind of slowly and steadily going about his business," Lashlee said. "He's doing a nice job."

Johnson was the state's Mr. Football last season at Madison Academy after a big rushing season.

"He's had a minimal amount of mistakes," Lashlee said. "He's done a nice job of retaining the information, and really the first time, and he's just kind of gone out and been who we thought we got and that's been nice."


• Lashlee said receiver Tony Stevens is "having a really good camp."

"We've moved him around a little bit to try to get him on the field in probably fitted situations for him. That'll be something you see once we get going."

• He said receiver Melvin Ray "is going to play and he's going to play a lot."

"One, because we trust him and two, he's productive. When he gets those opportunities over the last two years, albeit sparingly at times, he produces. He's not a flashy guy, but he's a productive guy. He'll help us win a lot of games, not just being on the field, but making plays this field. He's going to play regardless of who's out there."

• Auburn will scrimmage again Saturday. That one will feature more passing after the run-first Monday scrimmage.

That will give quarterback Jeremy Johnson and receivers a chance to do more.

"I would like to see receivers making plays, which the last two days in practice they've done that very well. They've bailed the quarterbacks out several times. I would like to see some guys make some 'wow' plays.

"I would like to see us be efficient, just throw and catch. We're good enough on the perimeter and good enough I would like to think at quarterback that if we just simply throw and catch and do what we're supposed to do, we don't have to be flashy, we'll move the ball up and down the field."

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



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