By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – It may have been Auburn fast, but Auburn's offense wasn't fast enough for coach Gus Malzahn last season.
He's ordered up a faster pace in 2016, and he's asking a different backfield than the one that started last season to do it.
Sean White, a part-time starter last season, will be the No. 1 quarterback against Clemson on Saturday night; and Kerryon Johnson, the No. 4 leading rusher last season, figures to be one of the top tailbacks along with Kamryn Pettway. Others in the running: Malik Miller and Kam Martin.
A largely experienced offensive line has been asked to hurry up, too.
"It's been a big emphasis," Johnson said. "We've all acknowledged we kind of slowed down last year. That's something that he made a big point of this year to get back to. We've to get back to going fast more consistently. We've been practicing very, very fast."
Johnson's role has grown up in a hurry after the departures of fellow running backs Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson.
"It's definitely changed. A lot bigger playbook to learn, that's for sure," Johnson said. "I think just from last year to this year I have a lot more confidence in myself. The game is moving slower in terms of reading and pass blocking. I just feel like I'm a much smarter player and a much more patient player. I have a feel for what's going on no matter what now."
He's gained 16 pounds since last year and is up to 211.
"It's helped me a lot in terms of breaking tackles, falling forward, gaining that extra one or two yards that can be a difference. That always helps and I haven't gotten any slower. I just feel like in terms of being a more physical player and being able to take a beating."
Receiver Marcus Davis said Johnson will stand up to the game.
"I'm real confident in him. He's very very talented and intelligent as well," Davis said. "He can do things I've never seen any other people do. I'm real comfortable and real confident in his ability. He's a real smooth, swift guy and I know he'll make a lot of plays."
Johnson said the departure of the other running backs has not changed his approach.
"I've prepared every day like this for the past 18 years of my life. I come in, go to work and then I leave. That's just what I do," he said. "I feel like we have a lot of people on the team that do that."
He said the late departure of Robinson "was an unfortunate event, obviously, but it didn't change my mindset at all. Maybe got a couple of more carries. But for me, I've got to do my job anyway."
Johnson said Martin, who signed with Baylor, was granted his release and has been in Auburn since the summer, "is doing fantastic. Kam is a very smart guy. He's obviously a very fast guy, a very quick guy. The first thing is he's smart, so he's going to be able to fit in wherever they need him to.
"Wherever they want to play him, he's going to be able to learn and he's very eager to learn. As long as you've got those two characteristics, you're going to be fine."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine