War Eagle Extra

Kamryn Pettway goes from ‘just a name’ to one of nation’s most prominent backs

Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway, No. 36, practices for the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 in New Orleans, La.
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway, No. 36, practices for the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 in New Orleans, La. Auburn Athletics

One of the surprising storylines of Auburn’s resurgence this season is Kamryn Pettway going from a complete unknown to the SEC’s top running back.

ESPN announcer Brent Musburger had a close-up view of Pettway’s remarkable transformation.

“I would alert everybody in Oklahoma who might not have watched Auburn, I’m going to tell you right now that maybe the single most powerful back I’ve watched in the SEC, I’m including Leonard Fournette, the most powerful back I watched was Kamryn Pettway,” Musburger said. “He’s unstoppable.”

When Musburger called Auburn’s season-opener against Clemson, Pettway only played a handful of snaps on special teams.

It was a low point in the season for Pettway, who was promised a much larger role in the offense going into the season.

The coaching staff rectified their mistake the following week by letting Pettway loose on Arkansas State. Pettway ran the ball 15 times for 152 yards to solidify his place atop the depth chart.

Pettway finished the season with 1,123 yards (6.07 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Musburger said. “To me it was just a name when the season started.”

Pettway impressed Musburger more and more as the season went on. The SEC Network’s top play-by-play man said Pettway looks more like a linebacker than a running back bulldozing his way over opposing defenders.

“I never saw any one defender take him down,” Musburger said. “It was always grab him and then hang on and wait for help. I would assume that he’s going to be one of the most publicized backs coming into the SEC season next year, young man out of Montgomery.”

Musburger calls Pettway’s health one of the key question marks for Auburn going into the Sugar Bowl.

Pettway missed two games in November with a quad injury. The sophomore returned for the Iron Bowl, but struggled in limited action with 12 carries for 17 yards.

The running back returned to the practice field in late December for the team’s eight bowl practices on campus. He declared himself after two practices with no limitations or setbacks.

“As to this game, okay, I have to hesitate a little bit because he’s coming off an injury and he’s got to get back into the routine,” Musburger said. “We will see. I am sure that the Sooners are extremely aware of how powerful he can be in a game.”

Musburger said a healthy Pettway could be a “difference maker” in the Superdome.

“If Auburn were to get ahead in this game, get into the fourth quarter, you’re just trying to get first downs, keep that clock moving, Kamryn Pettway is a huge weapon in this game,” Musburger said. “When they get ahead, he becomes an even bigger factor.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra