AUBURN, Ala. — When Kamryn Pettway decided to return to the Plains in 2017, it was some of the best news Auburn’s backfield received all year.
“I was very happy. I was extremely happy,” sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson said. “I don’t really pay attention to recruiting, but I don’t think we really have a lot of guys coming in at the running back position, so just to have that experience back, not really having to really start over like we did this past year, it’s tremendous. I’m really happy and looking forward to getting going with him again next year.”
Despite navigating an injury-plagued season, Pettway, who moved from H-back to running back, exploded onto the national scene.
After rushing for 1,123 yards in just nine games — arguably eight since he did not record a carry in the Tigers’ home opener against Clemson — the sophomore announced he’d be back to accomplish a few more things on his to-do list, namely getting his degree and playing a full season.
That’s a common goal for Johnson, who started the season reluctant to answer questions about his durability. Prior to Auburn’s bye week in Week 6, Johnson suffered an ankle injury against Mississippi State, which needled him for the rest of the season.
As good as the rushers are separately — Johnson amassed 862 yards through 11 games and will have a chance to surpass 1,000 yards against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl — together, they’re tougher to stop.
When they’ve rotated this season, the 6-foot, 240-pound Pettway adopts the bruising role, while Johnson functions as the speedster. Now healthy, the duo will be back in action together against the Sooners. The prospects of what the duo can achieve next year are even more exciting.
“I mean, I can’t even think of what we’ll be able to do,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be hard to beat me and him as a one-two punch in the SEC and the country. I think we can, fully healthy, it’s scary to think about.”