By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — It's one thing to have a 1,000-yard rusher in a season. But to have two? Auburn is tantalizingly close to that accomplishment.
Kamryn Pettway has 1,106 yards and Kerryon Johnson is knocking on the door with 823 yards heading into Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at Alabama. Last year, Pettway and Johnson combined for… 208 yards, all by Johnson. Now, he and Pettway may be in the 1,000-yard club in the same season.
"I think it's definitely, definitely a possibility with me closing in now. Pettway did his job, so it's definitely possible," Johnson said.
Pettway and Johnson were down the depth chart behind Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas last season. All three of those players could have returned. Not one of them.
Hello, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson and their run toward 1,000-yard seasons.
"It's just been crazy, just the timeline of running backs we've gone through in the past year," Johnson said. "I don't think anybody would have guessed this season that we'd have one, much less two. But I think that's just a testament to, when you have a coach like Coach Horton, who is great at what he does, you have an offense that is great at running the ball. I think we just set ourselves up for a great opportunity."
Auburn now has had 10 1,000-yard rushing seasons since 2009, and running backs coach Tim Horton has produced all sorts of 1,000-yard rushers in his career. One more, maybe two, fits right in.
"He knows our talent. He's seen us both in practice all the time," Johnson said. "He knew what we were capable of. A lot of fans, a lot of people, they don’t get to see that kind of stuff. One thing about Coach Horton is, he's always going to have confidence no matter who is in there. He wouldn't put us out there otherwise. He knew what he saw. He’s seen a lot of great running backs come through, and I guess that he just thought we could do it. He might be right."
Thankful for the @FootballAU RB's and the kind of men they have become. Happy Thanksgiving! #WarEagle pic.twitter.com/jM1SUAmDuP
— Tim Horton (@CoachTimHorton) November 24, 2016
Pettway has been sitting on his 1,106 yards since a Nov. 5 win over Vanderbilt. He hurt his leg in that one and hasn't played in the last two games. Coach Gus Malzahn said Pettway will play against Alabama. Johnson missed a game with an ankle injury earlier in the season and hasn't been completely healthy in more than a month. He says he's up to 90-95 percent on the health meter this week.
They've hardly been ball hogs. They have had carries in the same game in only six of Auburn's 11 football Saturdays. There have been only five games where each has had more than three carries. Quarterback John Franklin III has joined the fun with 400 rushing yards. Kam Martin has 320.
The assignment Saturday is formidable one: Alabama is allowing only 68.9 rushing yards per game, only 2.2 yards per carry. Auburn counters with the best rushing offense in the SEC. The Tigers have been on the run all season. The Tigers' 543 rushing yards against Arkansas set an SEC record for a conference game. The Tigers have 32 rushing touchdowns. They've allowed just four.
Auburn has lived up to its Running Back U. nickname. The Tigers have 10 1,000-yard rushing season since 2009 are Ben Tate, Cam Newton, Michael Dyer (twice), Tre Mason (twice), Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, Peyton Barber and now Pettway.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
'He's one of the best running backs in all of college football'
Auburn's Gus Malzahn hopes Kamryn Pettway will be ready for the Iron Bowl pic.twitter.com/J1GxkjkMur
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 24, 2016