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Auburn offense in good shape health-wise for stretch run

Auburn wide receiver Marcus Davis arrives at Jordan-Hare Stadium for his team's game against Arkansas St. Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016.
Auburn wide receiver Marcus Davis arrives at Jordan-Hare Stadium for his team's game against Arkansas St. Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s offense successfully knocked the top item off its to-do-list for the bye week.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee outlined his goal of getting his players rested up last week. Sunday night’s practice was a step in the right direction with Lashlee having everyone available after two off-days.

“The guys that were banged up after six games we were able to be as smart as we could with them,” Lashlee said. “At this point in the season I think we are in decent shape for the stretch run.”

The biggest concern remains starting running back Kerryon Johnson, who practiced Sunday night for the first time since injuring his right ankle early in the first quarter of Auburn’s win over Mississippi State.

“He was moving around, he ran the ball some, caught some balls,” Lashlee said. “It was good to see him out there.”

Lashlee won’t say with 100 percent certainty Johnson will suit up against Arkansas, but Sunday night’s practice was encouraging.

“I feel pretty good,” Lashlee said. “I got to see him move around today. It’s a day-to-day thing, but after today I feel like he’s got a shot. Knowing the kid like I do, we’ll see as the week goes on, but I’m optimistic.”

Lashlee didn’t hedge his bets when talking about center Xavier Dampeer’s health.

“He’s better, he’s moving around pretty go, we feel like we have all those guys (offensive linemen) will ready to roll however we need to do it,” Lashlee said.

With Dampeer available, Lashlee will face a decision about whether to reinsert the senior into the starting lineup. Last week, Lashlee said “we’ll see” in response to a question about his plans.

“X was doing a good job and we beat LSU with X as our center so he was doing some good things,” Lashlee said.

Lashlee went on to call Darius James the team’s “biggest bright spot” on the offense during his two-week stint as starter.

“Regardless of what we do, it gives us some confidence that we have six or seven guys with Mike Horton being in that mix too, that give us a little depth down the stretch,” Lashlee said.

Lashlee also gave a positive update on wide receiver Marcus Davis’ status. Davis has 13 catches for 100 yards this season with no touchdowns through six games.

“I think Marcus is the healthiest he’s been — knock on wood — since the season started,” Lashlee said. “He’s been playing with his hand taped up, splinted up and I think that’s probably why you saw him drop a couple balls earlier in the year he doesn’t normally drop. I think he’s going to be out of that and be full speed now.”

Davis has been an odd-man out in recent games with much of the production in the pass game coming from Tony Stevens, Kyle Davis and Ryan Davis.

Last year, Davis was second on the team with 30 catches with 182 yards and a touchdown.

“The numbers may not be where he would want them as a senior wide-out, but I think he’s proved over the course of his career here he can make big plays when we need him,” Lashlee said. “For us to win some of these games down the stretch particularly on the road, but even big games like this at home we are going to need guys like him to step up. He’s going to get his opportunities.”

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