Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson didn’t even need to think about his answer.
After a 45-21 loss to LSU Saturday, Johnson was asked if players should be looking over their shoulders with the offense continuing to struggle.
The passion in Johnson’s voice came through loud, and clear in his response.
“In the SEC at Auburn? You better be feeling like you are playing for your job when you always got another guy who is just going to step up and take it,” Johnson said, with conviction. “You got to come out everyday with that mentality no matter who you are.”
Johnson is battling fellow running backs Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson for playing time, a competition that kicked off at the start of training camp.
Barber has emerged as the top running back, but the coaching staff insists reps at the spot are up for grabs.
While Johnson’s numbers this season are fairly pedestrian -- four carries for 20 yards, four catches for 24 yards -- the coaching staff likes his versatility, and playmaking abilities.
The freshman is currently the team’s leading kick return through three games.
“I thought he was tough,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, of Johnson’s performance against LSU. “You can tell he’s healthy and full speed. For a young guy, the moment wasn’t too big for him. He was really competing. He was fighting hard. He’s a guy that with the ball in his hands, he can really make things happen.”
Johnson is a highly touted in-state talent out of Madison Academy High School. The former 4-star recruit won the state’s Mr. Football as a senior with more than 1,600 yards, and 25 touchdowns.
He finished his high school career with 109 total touchdowns, and more than 5,000 career yards.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder started out the season fourth on the depth chart, dealing with a leg injury, he’s slowly becoming a larger piece of Auburn’s offense game plan.
But Johnson never let his place on the depth chart dictate his intensity, or focus.
“At this caliber of play, every day, every hour, every minute you have to be at the top of your game,” Johnson said.
Despite recent results, Johnson believes he’s not the only practicing, and playing with that kind of determination.
“We just in a little slump,” Johnson said.