AUBURN, Ala. — An ankle injury to starting running back Kerryon Johnson was one of the few first-half negatives Auburn’s offense had in a 38-14 win at Mississippi State last Saturday.
But just a few days removed from the victory, Auburn’s coaching staff already sounds positive about the sophomore’s health.
“Very optimistic,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Tuesday night. “He’s doing well. We’ll just kinda take it day to day right now. He’s progressing well, probably better than our trainers maybe thought after Saturday.”
Lashlee said Johnson’s ankle injury, which he sustained in the first quarter of the win against Mississippi State, was “nothing major and serious.” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn gave a similar update of Johnson’s status to James Crepea of AL.com on Monday before an appearance in Birmingham.
“Hoping to have him back by the Arkansas game,” Malzahn told Crepea. “He’s a tough guy, he heals pretty quick and so we’ll see what happens.”
The Auburn assistant said Tuesday night the main goal for the offense during Auburn’s current bye week is to get rested and healthy — especially in the case of Johnson.
“It’s very important because he’s one of our best players,” Lashlee said. “He’s a dynamic guy. He’s our guy that does a lot of things from an all-purpose standpoint.”
In Johnson’s absence, fellow sophomore Kamryn Pettway stepped in and took charge of the rushing attack. He finished with a whopping 39 carries against Mississippi State for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns.
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Pettway, who missed the Louisiana-Monroe game with a bruised quad injury, said he was comfortable filling in for his injured teammate.
“It was a little bit of payback,” Pettway said Saturday. “He had to carry the load last week, so I had to step up and do it this time.”
Behind Pettway, Auburn used running back Kam Martin and converted wide receiver Stanton Truitt for a few carries to finish out the victory. The Tigers’ depth at running back took a hit last week when true freshman Malik Miller was ruled out indefinitely following knee surgery.
“It shows us it’s next man up,” Lashlee said. “And Bubba (Pettway) came in and played very well. Kameron Martin got in there and did some good things, even Stanton Truitt. And Chandler Cox is a guy who can run the ball, too, if we need him.
“We’re doing everything we can to have (Johnson) ready to roll, and if not, the other guys will just have to step up.”