UGA Football

Georgia prepares for ‘very explosive’ Kerryon Johnson

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson (21) cuts to a hole against Texas A&M.
Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson (21) cuts to a hole against Texas A&M. AP

For the second consecutive season, Georgia will not face Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway.

Pettway missed last year’s game against the Bulldogs and is out indefinitely of the 2017 season due to a broken bone in his shoulder. That means the Tigers will lean on junior Kerryon Johnson to be their lead back in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Johnson, however, has been Auburn’s top back for a large chunk of this season. Pettway has dealt with numerous injuries all year, which thrust Johnson into a starting role. And Johnson has been a big reason for Auburn’s success on offense.

Johnson has an SEC-best 15 touchdowns and conference second-best 868 rushing yards.

“He’s a very explosive runner. He’s very patient,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s got a vicious stiff-arm. His stiff-arm reminds me of the kid at Tennessee, John Kelley. He’s really hard to tackle, and they do a tremendous job of giving him the rock. I mean, he runs hard.”

Johnson carried the ball 22 times for 99 yards in last year’s game, which Georgia won 13-7. He’s been the primary runner over the past five games Auburn has played. In those contests, Johnson has averaged 26.4 carries, with a career-high 31 coming in a loss to LSU.

Only twice has Johnson failed to record 100 yards in a game – Missouri (48 yards) and Arkansas (63 yards).

Johnson, who missed two of Auburn’s nine games this season due to injury, is the only SEC running back to average more than 100 yards per game at 124.

“He is running wild on people,” Smart said. “He will bounce out, he will hit it up inside. He runs with great toughness. I have seen this kid grow for a long time. I watched him play all through high school. He has become a really good back and they do a good job of using his strengths.”