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20 Days to Kickoff! - Kerryon Johnson

From Mr Football to 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn Montgomery Advertiser-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.

The Recruit

The weekend run of running backs in our countdown concludes with one of the most versatile backs in Auburn history.

Kerryon was recruited heavily by Alabama (whom sources tell me he mostly ignored other than as a chance to go to big games) and Florida State (his favorite team growing up), but Auburn was able to get his verbal commitment on April 15, 2014. According to 247, Johnson didn’t take any other visits after his commitment, and he signed in February of 2015.

Kerryon was a player I had followed since he was a sophomore just 2 miles down the road from my house at Madison Academy. He was the main reason the Mustangs became the first team from the Tennessee Valley in the modern era to win a state football title in 2013, then he was even better in 2014 and was named Mr Football for the state of Alabama.

The Player

Kerryon was good enough in fall camp that he was not red-shirted, even behind Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson, and Peyton Barber. After not registering a stat in the season opener against Louisville, Johnson would have at least one carry in every game the rest of the season. He finished the year with 208 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns with 159 yards receiving (37 of which came on a fake punt in the Birmingham Bowl against Memphis).

Kerryon became the primary running back at the start of his sophomore season after Thomas transferred, Robinson was dismissed, and Barber decided to go pro early. He put up solid numbers in 4 of Auburn’s first 5 games, including 93 very tough yards in a win over LSU. Unfortunately, an ankle injury against Mississippi State would limit him until November. He did return for a solid game against Georgia (a game that Auburn probably could have won with him playing wildcat quarterback for the entire second half), but struggled against Alabama and Oklahoma in the final games of the season.

2017 would be Kerryon’s best year at Auburn, as he was finally healthy for most of the season. He ran for over 100 yards in 8 games and managed 18 rushing touchdowns (more than Bo Jackson had in his 1985 Heisman-winning season). He was magnificent in wins over Missouri (5 touchdowns), Ole Miss (227 total yards), Georgia (233 total yards including a 55-yard touchdown reception to put the game away), and Alabama (125 total yards and his second career touchdown pass). He led the SEC in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and total touchdowns as he was named the 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, Johnson suffered an injury attempting to run out the clock against Alabama, and he was severely hampered for the rematch with Georgia. Even by the Peach Bowl he didn’t seem to be quite 100%. A few days after the game, Johnson decided to leap to the NFL, where he was drafted 43rd overall by the Detroit Lions.

Johnson left Auburn 11th all-time in rushing yardage and 5th in rushing touchdowns. He’s quite possibly the highest rated passer in Auburn history with at least 4 attempts, as he ended his career 4 of 4 passing for 14 yards and 2 touchdowns. Seen as a smaller, shiftier back out of high school, Johnson developed into one of the toughest running backs in school history, even with his injuries. Perhaps the biggest what-if of Gus Malzahn’s tenure remains: What if Kerryon and Kamryn Pettway were healthy at the same time?

Let’s close with a few of Kerryon’s best plays:

in closing......ahem......