Auburn's Kerryon Johnson scores his first career touchdown against Kentucky
By Charles Goldberg
FAYETTEVILE, Ark. — Kerryon Johnson has added a spark in Auburn's offense as a Wildcat quarterback who can run. But could he also throw the football in Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Arkansas?
"He could," offered coach Gus Malzahn. "I wouldn't tell you, but he definitely could."
Malzahn found a moment of levity at his press conference this week, but finding big plays has been no laughing matter for Auburn. He and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have talked about needing more, and finding nine in Auburn's last game, a win over Kentucky, was a happy turnaround.
The Tigers will be looking for the offense to continue to produce in Saturday's early SEC Network game. Auburn is 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas is 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the league.
Johnson scored on a 6-yard run after taking a direct snap at Kentucky, and while that statistically may not have counted as an explosive play, it was welcomed and will give opposing defenses something to think about.
"He's a guy that he's very versatile," Malzahn said. "He gives us a lot of flexibility. We try to give him the ball in different ways. He's been doing some Wildcat, which could continue."
Offensive lineman Alex Kozan says "Kerryon has made a lot of plays."
"That LSU game, even when we were losing, he was making a lot of plays. You see him in that Wildcat and he brings a new element," Kozan said. "He's a really hard worker and a really humble kid. I’m excited for him."
Neither Johnson nor Sean White took a snap in the first three games, but there they were at Kentucky, with Johnson taking a handful on direct snaps, and White playing the role as the regular quarterback.
Auburn liked what they saw. White will start his fourth straight game Saturday. Johnson will jump in when needed.
"He’s playing in some receiver, playing in the backfield, he’s still doing the Wildcat stuff," Lashlee said. "I thought he played tough. He got hit pretty hard one time and he shook it off and stayed in there, made a couple good third-down conversions for us as well. He's a guy that will continue to be more involved."
Johnson is third in rushing with 107 yards. That trails Peyton Barber's 650 and Roc Thomas' 151. Johnson also has eight catches for 70 yards. He's also second in kickoff returns, averaging 29.9 yards per return.
Lashlee gave Johnson a coach's compliment.
"He’s a football player," Lashlee said. "He’s got great instincts. Some guys, you teach them certain things one time and they get it, just naturally know how to do it. He’s just one of those guys, we made a concerted effort (at Kentucky) to get him on the field more and we did, and I think that was good for us."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine