AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have insisted that a new season means no starting spot is safe, but running back might be an exception.
Auburn’s starting and 2-deep spots appear locked in with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. Pettway is hoping to shatter Auburn rushing records set by Tre Mason and Bo Jackson. Johnson successfully bulked up in the offseason without slowing down.
But offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, running backs coach Tim Horton and the rest of the offensive staff are searching for more depth in the backfield.
“We’ve got some guys we’re still evaluating,” Lindsey said. “Trying to find that third or fourth guy between Malik [Miller] and Kam [Martin]; we’ve got Devan [Barrett] now. I think we’ve got a good nucleus there, but still looking to see who steps up and plays that role for us. I really like so far what I’ve seen.”
Even with Pettway determined to trample SEC defenses, sharing the football won’t be a tough task for the Tigers. When Johnson went down with an ankle injury in 2016, Pettway emerged.
However, first downs were not always easy to find in the SEC.
“I think those guys are older guys and mature, been around here for a while, so I think they get that,” Lindsey said. “They understand how important it is to have two or three backs.”
Johnson says he’s focused on improving in every way he can and isn’t concerned about the raging backup battle. He’s confident that whoever takes the field this fall will be fine.
“We have an excellent room,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows that we all need each other, and everybody knows we have to go out and give our best individually and the rest will take care of itself. Every day we encourage each other and every day we go out and give our 100-percent effort and let the rest play out.”
Pettway, records in mind, is on board, too. The 6-foot, 240-pound back has been paying attention to Miller, Martin, Barrett and others who could play when he’s on the sidelines.
“All those guys are good athletes,” Pettway said. “All of them bring something different to the table. But I think we’ll just have to see when we go full pads and get to scrimmaging how things go there.”
Auburn will practice in full pads on Saturday, and Malzahn wants offensive position battles settled by the “two-week mark” of camp.
Regardless of who ends up behind Pettway and Johnson, Lindsey plans to use a slew of rushers to win — and everyone will have to be ready to roll.
“He still knows that we have one of the best backfields in the country,” Johnson said. “And he’s not going to be afraid to use it.”