AUBURN — In an attempt to give praise and also avoid a possible positional battle at both quarterback and tailback, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee tried to make everybody happy.
Lashlee called the current dual tailback game plan involving Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway “co-starters” Wednesday night in his weekly media conference.
Johnson and Pettway have both started each of the past two games at tailback and are the only set of teammates in the top 10 of the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards. Johnson, who is still listed above Pettway on Auburn’s depth chart that hasn’t been altered since the opening week of the season, currently sits sixth in the league with 278 yards on just 56 carries and four touchdowns this season.
“I think it’s a co-deal,” Lashlee said. “They’ve both shown the ability to make plays and be tough. Kamryn Pettway got rolling last week, but when we brought KJ in right before half, and even in the third quarter, he popped some good runs for us.”
Pettway, who is a former Prattville High School star and didn’t touch the football once in the season opener against Clemson, has produced back-to-back 100-yard performances against Arkansas State and Texas A&M. The 240-pound tailback has averaged 7.86 yards per carry in his first season as a primary tailback after spending his freshman campaign as a H-back blocker for Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and Johnson.
“Hopefully not only are we more productive because we’ve got two good players, but hopefully those guys are able to stay productive longer throughout the season,” Lashlee said. “I don’t see any signs of either one of them slowing down with their productivity and their opportunities.”
Auburn (1-2, 0-1 in SEC) currently leads the league in rushing at 261.7 yards per game and the Tigers are among three schools (Auburn, Oregon and Boise State) with at least one 1,000-yard rusher per season from 2009-2015.
“You have two really solid players that both need to play and both are very productive,” Lashlee said. “We’re going to continue to play them both and you hope that, each game may have a little different personality on who’s kind of feeling it more and you try to stay with the hot hand.”
The Key to LSU’s defense: Instead of repeating Auburn’s blocking scheme from Saturday against Texas A&M, Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn suggested he might try to let the offensive tackles handle LSU’s pass rushers this weekend.
Instead of trying to get right guard Braden Smith to pull all the way over to the left side, which resulted in a sack and tackle for loss by Texas A&M defensive end and projected NFL top-10 draft pick Myles Garrett, Auburn may focus its blocking on LSU defensive end Arden Key.
Key, a 6-foot-6 and 238-pound pass rusher who leads the Southeastern Conference with five sacks this season, has recorded multiple sacks in both of LSU’s games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition (vs. Wisconsin and vs. Mississippi State) this season.
“He’s a guy that we’re certainly going to have to be aware of this week,” Malzahn said in the weekly SEC media teleconference.
Malzahn admitted Tuesday the blocking scheme used in the 29-16 loss to Texas A&M last weekend against the Aggies “mesh rushing” formula was a bad game plan by the coaching staff.
“They were mesh charging from a defensive end standpoint, which they’ve never done before,” Malzahn said. “We didn’t do a good enough job from an offensive coaching standpoint adjusting quick enough.”
After having a downturn in pass rushers for a two-year stretch of 2013-14, LSU is back up in the top three of the league in sacks, and LSU’s sophomore from Atlanta is a huge reason for the return to quarterback harassment.
“Our defense, I think it’s exciting (with) great speed, fun to watch,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “They had six sacks against Mississippi State. The idea that the defense goes on to the field certainly in the last drive, forces two incomplete passes and gets a sack on fourth down. It’s nice to have them.”
Official visits: Auburn offensive line coach Herb Hand will be trying to get a commitment from a junior college offensive tackle from Honolulu, Hawaii, this weekend.
According to Auburnsports.com, Jordan Agasiva, a 310-pound offensive tackle from Pima Community College in Arizona, is scheduled to take an official visit to the Auburn campus Friday.
Agasiva, who will have two years of eligibility left when he decides on his next location to play college football, is considering scholarship offers from 11 Power 5 Conference schools including Auburn, TCU, Oregon State, Utah, Kansas State, Louisville, North Carolina and Missouri.
Auburn is also slated to get an official visit from junior college defensive end Tyree Owens on Saturday. Owens, a 280-pound prospect from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss., is a former three-star recruit from Oviedo, Fla. He has spent the past two seasons at Copiah-Lincoln and is scheduled to graduate in December. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.