AUBURN, Ala. — After an offseason of getting talked up as a potential difference-maker in the Auburn rushing attack, Kamryn Pettway barely saw the field last Saturday against No. 2 Clemson.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn says things will be different for the sophomore in Week 2 against Arkansas State, though, as the Tigers tweak their offensive plan after their 19-13 home loss.
“Kam Pettway will have more of a role this game,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “The good thing is we learned a lot about (starting running back Kerryon Johnson). I think the question that y’all ask quite a bit was can he hold up, can he be durable and all that? … He protected the football, so I was very encouraged by him, and Pettway will have a bigger role this game.”
Pettway unofficially took two offensive snaps vs. No. 2 Clemson last Saturday night. He entered the game at running back in the third quarter after Johnson’s helmet popped off, which forced the starter to stand on the sidelines for at least one play. Pettway took the field for a passing play, and then Johnson re-entered.
The sophomore from Montgomery, Ala., also played one snap at H-back — the position he played for the Tigers last season with Chandler Cox. Pettway transitioned to a full-time running back role during preseason camp, and he was listed as a second-stringer behind Johnson last week.
In one of Malzahn’s many surprise moves last Saturday, wide receiver Stanton Truitt recorded the first two carries of the game at running back. H-back Chandler Cox also got a carry in a short-yardage situation as Pettway watched from the sidelines.
Johnson, who finished with a team-high 94 yards on 23 carries in his first game as Auburn’s No. 1 option, said Tuesday he was “a little surprised” at Pettway’s lack of carries against Clemson. But he ultimately pointed toward Auburn’s offensive inconsistency as the reason for Pettway’s diminished role.
“Pettway is fine,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s going to play more. But when you go back, I mean, shoot if you don’t put together drives, that takes away from everybody getting on the field. We had 40 yards at halftime. We didn’t have a lot of carries because we didn’t have the ball. That hurts everybody on offense.”
Starting defensive back Rudy Ford, who started his Auburn career at running back, also had more offensive snaps than Pettway against Clemson.
Malzahn attributed Ford’s involvement in the offense as “one of those wrinkles” he wanted to use to surprise Clemson’s defense. But he wouldn’t rule out using the nickel back as an offensive playmaker in the future.
“That’s something that we’ll see where that goes,” Malzahn said. “He’s electric with the ball in his hands. I think you can see that on kickoff returns.”
Justin Ferguson is the Auburn beat writer for the SEC Country. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.