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Auburn Football 2016 Position Previews: Running Backs

With the first Game Week approaching, we're finally digging into the position groups to preview the 2016 Auburn Tigers.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

With the season almost here, we're taking a look at previewing the 2016 Auburn Tigers by each position group. The previous entries can be found in this story stream!

Running Backs

Key Losses -

Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson

Key Returnees -

Kerryon Johnson, Kamryn Pettway

Newcomers (includes redshirts) -

Malik Miller, Kam Martin

Causes For Optimism

Kerryon Johnson is electric with the ball in his hands. He has so much versatility that he can do almost anything a skill position player needs to do. There's a reason he was the wildcat option even as a true freshman last year.

Kamryn Pettway is big, strong, and he runs angry. I mean ANGRY. As proof, I present to you this wheel route against Arkansas and this run during A-Day. He was an effective high school tailback in Alabama and should be a good option.

Malik Miller arrived in the spring and was looking good in A-Day until he went out with an injury. It wasn't anything major, and he's been getting high praise from coaches. He will definitely see the field this year, although who knows how much. I see him as the breather for Pettway.

Kam Martin is someone I'm stoked about. He signed with Baylor originally but was granted a release from his LOI. Now at Auburn, he's ready to showcase his speed. Watch this highlight video and marvel at the way he uses his vision to find holes and his speed to exploit it. No jump cuts and fancy spin moves. No wasted motion. Just vision and speed.

Yes, losing the running backs that we lost hurt. Jovon Robinson was primed for a huge season. However, I think Auburn will be fine. If you need any other cause for optimism, just remember Gus Malzahn and Tim Horton's records with running backs. They've both consistently produced 1,000-yard rushers.

Causes For Concern

Can Kerryon Johnson be an every-down back? Can Kamryn Pettway be an effective SEC back? Will Kerryon's health hold up? Even with so much production from last season gone, I'm not overly concerned. Gus and Tim will have the running game on point.

Conclusions/Predictions

This may be the first year Gus Malzahn does not have a 1,000-yard rusher at Auburn. It won't be because the ground game isn't working, though. Rather, it will be because the running backs are so much "by committee" that no one has a chance to build up to 1,000 yards.

That being said, if the Tigers don't have a 1,000-yard rusher, it will be because 1-2 of them are close to the number but can't quite reach it. Regardless of how the passing game works, the running game will be fine. I think Pettway will prove himself a capable back and Malik Miller and Kerryon Johnson combine to show why the two of them together made Madison Academy state champions for a few seasons in a row.