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Auburn will be ‘close to 100 percent’ in Sugar Bowl

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said quarterback Sean White should be 100 percent for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said quarterback Sean White should be 100 percent for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn expects the long layoff leading up to this year’s Sugar Bowl will benefit his team.

The Tigers ended the season with a long list of injured players including starting quarterback Sean White (shoulder) and running back Kamryn Pettway (quad).

“I feel pretty certain we'll be close to 100 percent,” Malzahn said on a conference call with reporters Sunday night. “We had some key injuries to impact players late in the season that really hurt us. I feel pretty confident now that 30 days away or whatever, we'll have everybody close to 100 percent.”

White injured his throwing shoulder on Oct. 29 in a 40-29 win over Ole Miss. He tried playing through the injury — notably leading the team to victory over Vanderbilt off the bench — but reaggravated it two weeks later on the road against Georgia.

The sophomore later apologized for not being more forthcoming about the injury with Auburn’s coaches during the 13-7 loss.

“I wanted to win, I wanted to be out there playing. I don’t know if I really let them know how bad it was hurting me,” White said. “So that’s on me, and I have to do a better job of just being honest, because maybe the best chance to win might be somebody else if I’m not healthy enough.”

White didn’t practice for more than a month and missed the Tigers’ final two games of the season.

Pettway pulled his quad muscle on his final carry against Vanderbilt on Nov. 5. The sophomore returned for the team’s season-finale against Alabama, but only carried the ball 12 times for 17 yards.

The running back claimed he was at “98 percent” in the Iron Bowl, but Malzahn said Pettway wasn’t “even close to 100 percent the last game.”

Malzahn spoke Sunday night about the importance of having the two at 100 percent for the Sugar Bowl.

“Those two guys were playing at such a high level when we were making that stretch run.,” Malzahn said. “Sean was very efficient. I think he was one of the conference leaders as far as completions, quarterback ratings and everything that went with it. Of course, Kamryn Pettway was really emerging as one of better offensive players in our league.”

Malzahn is also eager to get the team’s secondary healthy. Defensive back Josh Holsey and safety Rudy Ford both suffered ankle injuries late in the season.

“Both those guys just the other day were walking around a lot better,” Malzahn said. “Just giving them a few more weeks right there will really help. We won't practice until, not this coming week, but the week after so that ought to help. I feel very confident both those guys will be close to 100 percent too.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra