By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Rhett Lashlee says running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway are doing so well he can't decide which one is the starter. That's why Auburn's offensive coordinator gave both of them first-team status Wednesday, hoping their 1-2 punch can help the Tigers run past LSU at 6 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn is the only school with two running backs ranked in the Top 10 in SEC rushing, with Johnson's 278 yards coming in No. 6, and Pettway's 275 yards at No. 7.
"I think it's a co-deal" as far as who's considered the starter, Lashlee said.
The Tigers lead the league in rushing, averaging 261.7 yards per game. Johnson and Pettway are the reasons why.
"They've both shown the ability to make plays and be tough. Kamryn Pettway got rolling last week, but when we brought K.J. in right before half, and even in the third quarter, he popped some good runs for us. At the beginning of the year I could see those guys complementing each other well. So far, I think they're doing that."
Johnson was the workhorse in the opener when Pettway didn't get a carry. But they're close now, both in yards and on the depth chart.
Johnson came into the season as Auburn's leading returning rusher, though with a modest 208 yards. Pettway played in 12 games last season as an H-back, but didn't get a carry.
He's had 35 in the last two games.
"To have a downhill, physical guy, when he hits in the second level, guys don't want to get near him. They go low," Lashlee said. "We had our first real scrimmage in fall camp I think that's when we kind of knew he had that ability. He had some runs similar to what you've seen. I think that gave us confidence it would carry over to the game. Obviously, he's been a big spark for us."
Lashlee said Pettway has only one direction.
"He still goes north-south. There is no east and west in Pettway."
Lashlee acknowledged one running back usually emerges as the go-to guy in Gus Malzahn's offense. This year could be different.
"You have two really solid players that both need to play and both are very productive. We're going to continue to play them both."
He said Auburn may opt for the running back "who's kind of feeling it more" in a specific game in order "to stay with the hot hand."
"Hopefully, not only are we more productive because we've got two good players, but, hopefully those guys are able to stay productive longer throughout the season. I don't see any signs of either one of them slowing down with their productivity and their opportunities."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine