Even if Kerryon Johnson isn’t 100 percent, Auburn can win SEC championship game

Kerryon Johnson
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson isn’t 100 percent because of a shoulder injury. Then again, who’s totally healthy right now?

“As soon as you play the first game, you’ll never again be 100 percent,” Auburn senior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “This game of football, you just know you have to play through some pain.”

I’m hearing everything from Johnson is fine to he’ll be limited in Saturday’s SEC championship game against Georgia, but there are two constants coming out of Auburn this week.

One, Johnson kept saying Monday he’s just “banged up.” Two, his teammates expect him to play.

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“We’re playing for an SEC championship,” senior safety Tray Matthews said. “You have to suck that up.”

Johnson has dealt with injuries and played through them throughout his time at Auburn, but how will the Tigers’ offense look with him being less than 100 percent?

I don’t think he would’ve carried the ball 30-plus times Saturday even with a healthier shoulder because the Bulldogs were going to load the box after he rushed for 167 yards against them November 11.

So, this is how Auburn should play offensively with Johnson’s shoulder being “banged up.”

Throw on first down. It doesn’t have to be deep balls, but Jarrett Stidham should get chances to take advantage of Georgia crowding the line of scrimmage with quick passes to Ryan Davis and Will Hastings.

QB keepers. Stidham had 12 rushes for a career-high 51 yards against Alabama last week. He had a touchdown run off a zone road. He should have five to seven runs either on read option, draws or scrambles.

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Screen game. Give Johnson opportunities in the open field. He has 21 catches this season, and Auburn could give him three to five touches in the passing game.

Wildcat options. Auburn has options off the Wildcat. Let Davis and Eli Stove get a touch or two when coming in motion to take advantage of Georgia selling out to stop Johnson out of that formation.

Backup duty. Kam Martin and Devan Barrett have a combined 77 carries and 11 catches on the season. Depending on how Johnson is feeling as the game progresses, Martin and Barnett should get at least 10 touches, collectively – Martin more in the run game and Barnett in the passing game.

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