SCOTTSBORO, Ala. — In the race to be the new starting running back for Auburn football, the experience of Kam Martin has him ahead of the pack heading into the summer.
Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton said Thursday evening that Martin would be the starter for the Tigers “if we were to play today.”
“It would be Kam Martin,” Horton said Thursday before his appearance at the Jackson County Auburn Club annual meeting. “He would be the first one to go out on the field. Obviously we don’t play today and so is he going to start against Washington? That kinda remains to be seen. But Kam would be first-team if we played today.”
Martin is Auburn’s most experienced running back in the competition to replace SEC Offensive Player of the Year winner Kerryon Johnson. The Texas native has rushed for 773 yards in his first two seasons on the Plains, when he backed up Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.
Much has been made of Martin’s ability to be a No. 1 option for Auburn, considering he is the smallest scholarship back listed on the roster at 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds. Horton said Martin is now around 195 pounds, and he’s developed into a more well-rounded back.
“He’s probably gained 20 to 25 pounds since he got on campus,” Horton said. “And he’s got a little more experience and really I think sometimes people misrepresent a kid not playing into the sense that, boy, he’s not doing very good. Well, Kam Martin had two good players in front of him. Hopefully both of them get drafted. I know one will and hopefully the second one will, too.
“He just had some guys who were in front of him that were pro football players and not necessarily a case of Kam not doing well, there were just some guys in front of him. I think the year of experience and another year in the weight room is going to help him be a better player.”
Martin did not participate in the annual A-Day Spring Game earlier this month because of a hamstring injury. Horton said the junior is “doing great” and is fully participating in the Tigers’ offseason program.
As for Auburn’s rotation behind Martin — which features redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow, sophomore Malik Miller, freshman Asa Martin and sophomore Devan Barrett — Horton said the Tigers would use a “situational” system as it stands right now.
“If we had to play today, it would probably be situational football,” Horton said. “There’s one guy that’s probably a better pass protector, there’s one guy who has probably a better runner, there’s one guy who might be a better pass receiver out of the backfield. It would be very situational in the sense that whatever the down and the distance and the situation dictates.”
But Auburn is confident right now in the experience of Martin, who will get his chance to lock down the first-team role now that Johnson and Pettway are off to the NFL.
Still, Horton has his doubts about the smaller Martin’s ability to be an every-down back. While Martin has what it takes to be the No. 1 back on the field, his size might force the Tigers to go with a better rotation in 2018.
“The one thing that I do know about the running backs that we’ve had in the past is they’ve all been 210 pounds, 215 pounds,” Horton said. “Well, Kam Martin is 195. And so I don’t know that answer. I think, and we’ve wanted to do this the last couple of years but it just hasn’t worked out, is we want to play more than one guy.
“But obviously as the coach you’ve got to play your best guy, and so hopefully this will be a year we can keep people healthy and play two or three or four guys. I sure hope so.”