By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Running back Kerryon Johnson's physical play last Saturday won praise Tuesday from a guy knows something about that position.
"Full-grown man," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. "He was as physical as I've ever seen him. He was running with passion. He broke tackles and they've got a lot of guys that can really tackle."
Those LSU guys tried, but Johnson ran for 93 yards and Kamyrn Pettway added 61 as Auburn beat LSU 18-13. Johnson and Pettway will try for more when Auburn plays Louisiana-Monroe at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Johnson and Pettway entered this week just as they left last week: As the only two running backs from the same school in the Top 10 in rushing in the SEC. Johnson, with 371 yards, is ranked seventh. Pettway, with 336 yards, is ranked 10th.
They've been tested early, including the game against LSU.
"It was a real physical game," Malzahn said. "After four games, if you look at our running back position, there were a lot of question marks coming into the year about that, and I think those questions have been answered."
Malzahn said again in his weekly press conference Tuesday that he was turning over the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee... and that he and Auburn would benefit from the move.
"It's 100 percent best for our team," he said in this story.
Lashlee called the plays in the win over LSU. That gave Malzahn a new perspective as he positioned himself to see how the defense challenged his offense.
"Boy, you can really see the defense different. You can really see how everything is unfolding. It was really good," Malzahn said. He also said he has a new perspective of his defense and special teams.
The win over LSU was a "big win for our program" and "we're in position that I really feel like we can improve," Malzahn said.
Defensive end Paul James III will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury he suffered before last week's game.
"It's very unfortunate. It was kind of a freak drill. He was really doing a good job and improving. But it looks like he'll be out for the rest of the season."
Malzahn likes freshman Kyle Davis, who is still playing catch up after missing time in the offseason and again in practice with a broken foot.
"His role will increase each week because he's still learning as we go along with the other receivers."
Malzahn said he hopes the person who set the blaze on the Toomer's oak last Saturday will be punished "big time."
"That's what I hope," Malzahn said.
He said the tree incident was "unfortunate... real unfortunate."
Malzahn said he'll miss Les Miles at LSU. Miles was fired Sunday, less than 24 hours after Auburn beat the Bengal Tigers.
"Les is a legend. Les is a guy that he has helped make the SEC what it is currently. He's a great coach. He's a great person. He's a guy coming into the SEC, I looked up to. Always treated me great. You look at our league, we've lost some legends in the last year with Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, now Les Miles. It's unfortunate. He's one of the best in the business."
Malzahn said Miles will coach again "if he wants to."
"He's one of the best coaches in America. He could land somewhere if he wants to. If he wants to go pro, he can go pro."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
Tuesday practice scoop: Hat pic.twitter.com/HgF83clGhU
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 27, 2016