AUBURN, Ala. — With one running back nursing an ankle injury, another coming off of a 39-carry game and yet another on the sidelines following knee surgery, Auburn is turning to a converted wide receiver for more help in its rushing attack.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference sophomore wideout Stanton Truitt is splitting first-team carries during the off week with true freshman running back Kam Martin.
“They’re getting a majority of the reps,” Malzahn said. “It’s good to get them some carries before the second half of the season. This week’s been really good for them, getting a lot of reps.”
Martin was an obvious candidate to get additional reps at running back this week with Kerryon Johnson’s ankle injury, Kamryn Pettway’s recovery from an ironman effort in a win against Mississippi State and Malik Miller’s recent knee surgery.
But Truitt has risen quickly in the rotation at running back during his gradual transition from a standard wide receiver spot. (Malzahn referred to it as a “dual role” last week.) The sophomore from Atlanta has just 3 catches this season — all of which came in the first two games — but has carried the ball 11 times in the last two games for Auburn.
Stanton Truitt, working as RB now, had more carries (7) and as many yards (46) vs. ULM than he had catches (6) and yards (46) in his career.
— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) October 4, 2016
The 5-foot-9, 185 pound Truitt, who has had two shoulder surgeries in his first two seasons at Auburn, was featured heavily at a standard running back position on the Tigers’ final offensive drive against Mississippi State. He’s also been a go-to player on speed sweeps, which are staples of the Auburn offense.
“Stanton has got a lot of natural ability at running back,” Malzahn said Wednesday. “He’s got some big-play ability, as does Kam Martin. He’s very quick.”
Truitt was a dual-threat quarterback at Monroe Area High School in Atlanta, rushing for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns in his senior season. He was a 3-star athlete prospect according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, and Auburn recruited him to play wide receiver.
Now that they need more talented bodies at running back heading into the second half of a grueling season, the Tigers are looking to take advantage of Truitt’s experience as an explosive high-school rusher in a new position.
“He did basically that in high school: running back, quarterback stuff,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Tuesday night. “He has running back-type skills, and he’s really thick and compact for a shorter guy.”
Despite his smaller frame, Auburn’s coaching staff is high on Truitt’s ability to be a running back who can take the ball on inside handoffs.
“You know he’s explosive and fast, but he can run between the tackles,” Lashlee said. “He’s not just a perimeter guy. Guys are bouncing off of him. He’s tough … Sometimes the guys on the other side underestimate how fast and quick he is and how powerful he is. He’s a weapon.”