Auburn's Barber emerges from shadows of 5-star runners
Sep. 10, 2015
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Peyton Barber was so bothered by a practice mistake, he sent a text message apologizing to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.
Two days later, the sixth-ranked Tigers' often-overlooked tailback more than made up for it. With quarterback Jeremy Johnson having a subpar game and the top two tailbacks hurt, Barber helped carry the offense in the second half to preserve a win over Louisville.
Last "Thursday I think he made one alignment problem and it was just on his mind," Malzahn said. "He's tough on himself. The guys that are tough on themselves, they've got a chance to be really good. It was just one of those things, 'Hey, I won't make the same mistake and I'll be ready on Saturday.'
"There was no doubt he was definitely ready."
What remains in doubt publicly is whether Barber's clutch performance in the first significant action of his career will earn him a start Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision team Jacksonville State. Roc Thomas, who started the opener, and Jovon Robinson are both expected to be back from leg injuries sustained in the opener.
Asked if Barber might start, Malzahn said: "We'll see. We're not ready to say that right now, but he's in a very good spot."
Coaches have said all along that the backfield pecking order will develop as the season progresses. Barber at least was ready when Robinson limped off the field after two carries.
"This is what I've been waiting on," Barber said of his thoughts when that happened. "This is my time."
Barber was often overshadowed by the two former five-star recruits, Thomas and Robinson.
Highly touted freshman Kerryon Johnson is also expected to be a factor in the backfield, and Malzahn said he will play against the Gamecocks. Barber wasn't such a high-profile recruit but that didn't matter when he was racking up 115 yards against Louisville, including 95 in the second half of the 31-24 victory.
Barber doesn't gripe about getting less attention than his fellow tailbacks since his arrival along with high school teammate and five-star defensive end Carl Lawson in 2013. He had just 10 carries last season.
"There were some times that I felt like that, but like I said in past interviews, I'm used to it so that was no biggie," he said.
Barber said he still has much to prove. The tailback competition almost certainly is far from over but he at least got a chance to make his case outside of practice.
Malzahn said Barber's teammates enjoyed seeing his big game.
"They were really excited," the coach said. "Peyton is one of the team favorites just because of the quality person he is and the worker he is. When good things happen to good people, people rejoice, and our team is no different."