ATHENS — Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson burned Georgia in the first match-up. One of the major storylines for the second one, in Saturday’s SEC championship, will be whether Johnson can take the field for the game.
Johnson left last Saturday’s game against Alabama with a shoulder injury. He was asked Monday, during a teleconference to preview the SEC championship, about his status for this week’s game.
“I’m working this week to get back to as healthy as I can be, obviously,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working for this game for a long time, so I’m doing everything I can to get back on the field. It’s football, it’s Week-whatever-it-is, everyone’s a little banged up.”
Johnson said the shoulder is “just banged up,” and that he’s putting a lot of ice on his shoulder and “normal rehab” this week. He also seemed amused when a reporter, trying to delve into the injury, asked whether he could feel the injury in his shoulder.
“Of course I can feel it, it didn’t fall off,” Johnson said. “But I’m sore after every game, and so is everyone else.”
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham said he felt “very confident” that Johnson would be able to play. Auburn linebacker Tre’ Williams made it sound like he had no doubt.
“Oh yeah, Kerryon is really tough, man. That’s something we look up to him for,” Williams said. “Just all in all you know he’s going to play. Because it’s the first time he’s going to play in the SEC championship and he’s not going to let this opportunity pass.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart also said he “fully expects” Johnson to play, though added that he would prepare for either possibility.
“They’ve got other backs who are good – probably not as good as Kerryon – but they’ve got other backs who are good SEC backs,” Smart said.
Johnson is the SEC’s second-leading rusher despite missing two games this season. He has 1,276 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 25 attempts per game.
Johnson was a workhorse in Auburn’s 40-17 win over Georgia, carrying it 32 times for 167 yards. The Tigers rushed it 46 times overall in that game, only needing quarterback Jarrett Stidham to attempt 25 passes.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, speaking before practice on Sunday night, said Johnson going down the second time – without being hit – was probably a “culmination” of the injuries during the game.
Malzahn was a little less sure than Williams that Johnson would go.
“I think probably everybody in the country has seen the courage he showed the last five – really ever since he came back from his hamstring injury – his toughness, his courage, and everything that goes with it,” Malzahn said. “So I know that physically, if he can, he will. But I’m just — we’re not ready to say that yet. We’ll just have to wait later in the week on where he’s at.”
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