Auburn's Peyton Barber shows the way, much to the delight of Gus Malzahn in the background
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn says he saw a lot of good things in Peyton Barber's performance Saturday, especially after he emerged as the last running back standing in Auburn's season-opening win over Louisville.
"The thing that I was encouraged about is he never looked to the sideline wanting to come out, tap his shoulder, tap his hat. He was wanting to play and I think that's important, especially with what we do," Malzahn said during his Tuesday press conference. "He carried it for 20-plus times and those were hard yards, some of them. That was encouraging."
Barber, who played the entire second half after injuries sidelined Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson, rushed for 115 yards on 24 carries. Malzahn said Barber should have help in Saturday's 11 a.m. home-opener against Jacksonville State, predicting Thomas and Robinson would return from their injuries, and that Kerryon Johnson would join the backfield mix after playing one play last Saturday. Malzahn said Johnson limited because he was a "little banged up."
Malzahn also said other injured players, such as defensive lineman Carl Lawson, who went out with an injury; and defensive back Josh Holsey, who was limited to two plays on special teams, are expected to return as well.
"We're expecting everybody to play," Malzahn said. "This is a quality opponent. We need to get better. There's no talk about our next opponent LSU. We're worried about Jacksonville State and we're expecting everybody to play, and we need to get ready."
There will be changes to the part of the depth chart. Malzahn announced freshman quarterback Tyler Queen, who was ticketed for a redshirt season, anyway, had elbow surgery. He's expected back in the spring.
Malzahn said Jonathan Wallace, who started four games at quarterback for Auburn in 2012 but most recently had been working with the receivers, has replaced Queen as the No. 3 quarterback behind Jeremy Johnson and Sean White. Wallace began working with the quarterbacks on a part-time basis a few weeks ago.
"He's still going to help us at receiver," Malzahn predicted.
Receiver Jason Smith, a former high school quarterback, could see spot duty there, perhaps as a Wildcat quarterback.
"We may have a package for him. He’s comfortable there," Malzahn said. "We would like his role to be bigger so it's kind of that balance that you have to figure out what is best to do. As the season goes on, he gives you a lot of flexibility."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine