AUBURN, Ala. — Stanton Truitt’s move from wide receiver to running back wasn’t about chasing stats or earning praise.
Yet the sophomore had both after scoring the first 3 touchdowns of his career during Auburn’s 56-3 win over No. 17 Arkansas on Saturday night.
“It was really just about helping the team,” Truitt said. “Guys are kind of getting banged up, so it was really about just being able to help.”
Truitt made the full-time switch from receiver to running back prior to the Tigers’ 38-14 thrashing of Mississippi State.
With Tigers leading rusher Kerryon Johnson still nursing an ankle injury he suffered early in the game against the Bulldogs, Truitt spent the bye week adjusting to the new position. The Atlanta, Ga., native, who played quarterback growing up and in high school, was familiar with position changes, but this particular move was trickier than he anticipated.
Yet in Auburn’s dominating win over Arkansas, where his father Stan Truitt played safety, Truitt appeared to have figured it all out.
The sophomore rushed 20 yards into the end zone for his first touchdown during the first quarter, putting Auburn, which climbed from No. 21 to No. 15 in Sunday’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, ahead 21-0. He caught a 45-yard reception, a career long, from quarterback Sean White in the second quarter before adding his final score in the fourth quarter — a 31-yard rush through the middle of Arkansas’ defense.
“It was thrilling, it was an adrenaline rush, and really I was just out there having fun,” Truitt said. “In practice we’re always talking about taking advantage of every play, and we definitely did that tonight.”
While Truitt’s efforts over the bye week diminished any doubts he had about taking over in the backfield, even he was surprised about his success in Auburn’s first matchup against a ranked team and as a ranked team in over a year.
Luckily, the 5-foot-9 Truitt had a talented group of teachers willing to answer questions and spend time working with him outside of practice and away from the football field.
“It was tough at first just trying to figure out the ins and outs of being a running back, but KJ (Kerryon Johnson), Kamryn Pettway and Kam Martin made it easy for me,” Truitt said. “They really welcomed me with open arms and Coach (Tim) Horton as well. It’s fun being there. It was really big having those guys to help me out to learn everything. … Just the extra time those guys put in with me helped me a lot.”
Truitt’s job also was made easier by his offensive line, which helped the Tigers total 543 rushing yards against the Razorbacks — the second highest total in school history.
“Those guys do a great job of getting to their blocks and just being physical,” Truitt said. “They tell us every time, just run behind us and we’ll make a hole for you. It’s really easy doing your job when you have those guys in front of you.”
The addition of Truitt to the backfield follows a couple of prevalent themes developing in coach Gus Malzahn’s 2016 team.
“It speaks to our team, everyone is unselfish,” senior offensive lineman Alex Kozan said. “We got a lot of young guys carrying the ball. A lot of those guys are getting their first opportunities. They’re really starting to step into their roles. It’s great to see that anybody can step in and get yards.”
So after starting the year at wideout and catching 3 passes for 20 yards, Truitt finally found the perfect fit.
“He’s in a good spot right now,” Malzahn said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. He’s got an opportunity, and he seized the moment and now he gives us another weapon in the backfield … for him to be able to do this and play at that high of a level really says a lot about him. He had a very good game and it was great to see.”