By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Kerryon Johnson is tracking toward become Auburn's 10th 1,000-yard rusher in the last eight seasons, and that's putting the sophomore in some fast company.
"He's starting to establish himself as one of the better running backs in our league," said Gus Malzahn on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. "When we recruited him we thought that's exactly what would happen. He just needs to continue to improve, but he's running hard and doing a solid job of protecting the football."
Johnson is third in the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 517 yards and tied for the league-lead in touchdowns with six through five games. He'll try to add to that total when Auburn plays its first road game of the season at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mississippi State.
Johnson is on pace to join Auburn's other 1,000-yard rushers since 2010: Ben Tate, Cam Newton, Mike Dyer twice, Tre Mason twice, Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and Peyton Barber. Johnson rushed for 208 yards last season, but has found his footing sine departures of Barber, Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas.
Malzahn said his offensive line has helped Johnson as it continues to improve.
"We just knew it was a matter of time," Malzahn said.
Johnson will likely get some help at running back in Starkville. His running mate, Kamryn Pettway, is expected to play after being held out of last Saturday's 58-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe because of a sore quad. Pettway is seventh in the SEC in rushing with 336 yards.
Freshmen, sophomores tally 86.3 percent of Auburn's offense. 'Everyone is coming to work...that's the best thing to see,' says Sean White pic.twitter.com/WNuKqT6F3s
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) October 5, 2016
The compliments didn't about Auburn's offense didn't stop there during the teleconference. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Auburn quarterback Sean White brings the element of a drop-back passing game to Auburn's offense.
"He's a guy who understands the offense," Mullen said. "He makes good reads, takes care of the football and he throws the ball very, very well. He adds the component of the drop-back pass they haven't had in their offense a lot. You see the improvement and the confidence he has."
Malzahn's Auburn offense has had success with a drop-back passer, such as Chris Todd.
Mullen said White can run and has "the ability to beat you in the shots down the field in play-action. His ability to give them some drop-back pass has really improved."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine