By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Even playing "nicked up," as they say, Kerryon Johnson has been on a steady course toward a 1,000-yard season.
Maybe not on the pace to reach 1,000 yards rushing, as he was before suffering injuries, but the Auburn running back has 936 all-purpose yards because he has continued to return kicks, continued to take direct snaps, continued to catch passes, continued to play running back.
Kamryn Pettway has 1,106 yards rushing, which is best in the SEC, but he suffered a leg injury in last week's win over Vanderbilt and his status is unclear for Saturday's game at Georgia.
Johnson stands ready.
"He's probably our most versatile guy," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee on Wednesday. "He's proven he can be your 25-30 carry running back. He's a weapon catching the football. He's a good special teams player."
Johnson is first on the team in kickoff returns, second in rushing and all-purpose yards, third in total yards and fourth in catches.
"He's showing why half the schools around the country wanted him as a free safety and half of them wanted him as a running back. He just does a lot of things well. He's very instinctive, very smart, tough and dependable. We try to use him every way we can."
Johnson was among the SEC rushing leaders before suffering an injury after just three carries against Mississippi State on Oct. 8. He missed the next game and has been eased back into his tailback role as Pettway took off.
"Kerryon is an even-keeled a guy as you're going to find. Kerryon is going to be the same every day and you love that about him. He's tough, now. He's proven this year. If he hadn't of gotten nicked up, he would probably be around a 1,000-yard back possibly, too. There's still more left to be played in the season so we'll see. I feel good about where he is."
Lashlee gave a promising medical report on quarterback Sean White, who was held out of the first half of the Vandy game with an injury, but came on to lead the Tigers to a win. Lashlee said White is ready to go in the 2:30 p.m. game in Athens. He said Pettway was also at practice. But his status for Saturday isn't as clear.
So Johnson waits, as does Stanton Truitt, the former receiver who has avoided injury and can play.
"He's real tough," Lashlee said. "He's proven he can run in between the tackles real well. Guys like him maybe present different problems. He's not going to run anybody over, but he's also going to be harder to catch. Sometimes guys like that get lost among the lineman. Next thing you know, they've shot out the other side.
"He's been playing running back long enough now that I feel good about his ball security, his toughness and everything that goes with it."
Your Auburn injury report, starting with running back Kamryn Pettway, then Sean White, as told by offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee... pic.twitter.com/eZNeLkUmem
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 10, 2016
• Leading receiver Tony Stevens is back after missing last week's game with an injury.
"It's important," Lashlee said. "He's a senior and he was playing very well, and Sean has a lot of confidence in him. It helps us be better all around."
• Lashlee said quarterback John Franklin III benefitted from his first SEC start against Vanderbilt.
"I think it was great. I think it was invaluable. He's starting an SEC game against a really good defense. Really, with the exception of his fumble, I thought he did a lot of good things.
"It gives us and his teammates confidence in him. It's unfortunate we had the fumble because other than that, he had really good ball security. That's a lot of times what you worry about when a guy hasn't played as much, but it was a really good experience for him and his development."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine