DESTIN, Florida — Roc Thomas is gone, but Gus Malzahn’s confidence in Auburn’s depth at running back is not.
The former five-star prospect out of Oxford, Ala., left the team Tuesday to enroll at Jacksonville State, where he will play for his former high school coach (John Grass) and be closer to his family at the FCS school.
The question at Auburn: what will Auburn do now? Jovon Robinson, who rushed for 90 yards or more in five of the last six games, emerged last season and was the favorite to win the starting job following the spring. Beyond him are sophomore Kerryon Johnson, who has never carried a heavy load at running back (25 carries or more) in his career, and freshman Malik Miller.
Robinson has a history of injuries, including an ankle sprain that kept him out for most of the first half of the 2015 season.
“We feel very confident about Jovon staying healthy,” Malzahn said. “Kerryon Johnson has a chance to be an impact player. Like I said, the other three I just mentioned are all very good candidates to carry the football and do a good job.”
The other three include Miller and fullbacks/H-backs Chandler Cox and Kamryn Pettway. They both played tailback in the spring and during Auburn’s A-Day scrimmage April 9.
It’s possible Pettway, who played tailback in high school and rushed for 1,402 yards as a senior, could move to the position full time if needed.
“There’s no doubt,” Malzahn said. “That’s what he played in high school. We had numerous conversations before this spring about playing some tailback and he had an excellent spring. In the spring game, he had one longer run. He’s got a chance to be a really good running back.”
Auburn has no plans of moving defensive back Rudy Ford to running back. He played the position in high school and during his freshman season at Auburn.