Five options to replace Kerryon Johnson's production: Kam Martin
When it comes to replacing the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year, there's no easy choice. That decision is made even more difficult when the primary back-up, a former All-SEC running back in his own right, is also headed to the NFL. But that is the unenviable task that Gus Malzahn and his staff have ahead of them as they enter the offseason. Over the next five days, we'll look at options to fill the void at running back.
The first choice, and maybe the most obvious choice, is sophomore Kam Martin. Martin was committed to Baylor with a letter of intent signed before head coach Art Briles was ousted in the wake of a scandal. Martin's relationship with Jarrett Stidham, along with the Briles-Malzahn connection, caused Martin to select Auburn as his new home.
Martin saw some late game action his freshman year, rushing for 320 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries, but lacked any meaningful snaps. His sophomore year is when he took on a bigger share of the offense.
Heading into the 2017 season, Martin was locked in at third on the depth chart, behind Kam Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. But a pregame suspension for Pettway and an early injury to Johnson finally gave Martin his chance to shine. In the season opener versus Georgia Southern, Martin rushed for 136 yards and a score on just 14 carries. Even when Kerryon Johnson returned from injury, Martin found himself a bigger part of the offense with Pettway sidelined for the majority of the season with injuries. With both Pettway and Johnson now chasing their NFL dreams, Martin is the only returning player with significant experience.
The one knock on Martin is his size. The sophomore running back lacks the prototypical stature of a running back in the Auburn offense. The average weight of Auburn's thousand yard rushers under Malzahn is 217 pounds, with the lightest being Tre Mason in 2013, at 205. Martin weighs in 35 pounds lighter than the average thousand yard rusher, at 182. If Martin is to become a feature back, he'll have to put on some weight to withstand the wear and tear of a rough SEC schedule.
While Martin is the most obvious choice to take the torch from Kerryon Johnson, he's far from the only choice. Tomorrow, we'll continue our look at the running back position and spotlight freshman Devan Barrett.