For all the talk quarterback Jarrett Stidham will give No. 13 Auburn this Saturday that it did not have when it played No. 3 Clemson last season, people are forgetting Clemson will have to adjust to a different running back as well when the two Tigers clash in Death Valley at 7 p.m.
When the ACC’s Tigers beat the SEC’s Tigers on the Plains last year in Auburn, they did not have to face running back Kamryn Pettway. He did not play in the game, and Auburn rushed for a season low 87 yards in Clemson’s 19-13 win.
Pettway (6-0, 235) ultimately got his shot for Auburn in the following weeks and went on to run for 1,224 yards and scored seven touchdowns in the 10 games he played in. His 122.4 yards per game led the SEC in 2016.
“He is a 240-pound sledge hammer,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference. “He is hard to tackle, especially with all the misdirection that they incorporate into their offense, jet sweeps and this and that. The next thing you know they are splitting you in half with a 240-pound guy.
“He is very good. He is very durable. He is very consistent.”
Now that Stidham presents more of a threat in Auburn’s arsenal from a passing game standpoint, it makes it even harder to stop Pettway.
“You don’t luck up and lead the SEC in yards per game,” he said. “He is a great football player for sure.”
Then of course Clemson has to worry about running back Kerryon Johnson. All he did in last week’s season opener was rush for 136 yards on 16 carries while crossing the goal line once. Last year, Johnson rushed for 895 yards and led the team with 11 rushing touchdowns.
However, Johnson was nicked up in Auburn’s win over Georgia Southern last week and is questionable for this week’s game at Clemson. According to the Auburn Radio Network, it appears the junior is suffering from a hamstring injury.
“(Johnson) is a great player, too,” Swinney said. “I know he got banged up last week and I’m not sure where he is, but they have an outstanding group of running backs.”
Last week, Auburn rushed for 351 yards on 53 carries against Georgia Southern. Third string running back Kam Martin also rushed for 136 yards and touchdown in the place of Johnson, who went out in the second quarter.
Clemson and Auburn will play at 7 p.m. on Saturday and the game will be televised by ESPN.
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