AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Kamryn Pettway is returning to Auburn's backfield just in time for the biggest challenge of the season.
The 16th-ranked Tigers' 1,000-yard rusher is expected to play Saturday against No. 1 Alabama after missing the past two games with a left leg injury, coach Gus Malzahn said on Tuesday.
The status of quarterback Sean White remains uncertain with a right, throwing shoulder injury. Jeremy Johnson replaced him as the starter against Alabama A&M, with John Franklin III also playing. Malzahn said he didn't expect to make that decision until after practicing Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pettway's expected return supplies a big boost to the Southeastern Conference's top rushing team, especially facing the nation's No. 1 run defense.
The 6-foot, 240-pounder has run for 1,106 yards despite missing three games and failing to log a carry in the opener.
''He's one of our impact players,'' Malzahn said. ''He's one of the best running backs in all of college football and one of the best in our league. Any time you have a guy like that back, it changes things. It changes things in a good way for us.''
He said he wasn't sure if Pettway would be 100 percent. Pettway pulled up with the injury at the end of a 60-yard run against Vanderbilt.
Kerryon Johnson, who has been nursing an ankle injury, shouldered much of the load in his absence. With 823 yards, he's also closing in on 1,000.
H-back Chandler Cox also returns from a leg injury to block for the two backs.
Now, White's status is the big question. He was leading the SEC in passing efficiency before reinjuring his shoulder against Georgia and remaining in the game, struggling to a 27-yard passing day.
Jeremy Johnson, who opened last season as the starter, passed for 147 yards and rushed for two touchdowns against FCS Alabama A&M. Franklin has seldom been used as a passer but has averaged 10.5 yards on 38 carries.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said he doesn't ''see a whole lot of difference'' among the three quarterbacks.
''They're all a little bit different, but all very effective in terms of their style and how they play,'' Saban said. ''Sean White probably was the most effective guy throwing the ball consistently to go with their running game but also pulled the ball on some quarterback runs and made plays and was very efficient and effective.
''The other two guys are very athletic and very capable of running at any time, scrambling at any time, making plays with their feet at any time.''
Jeremy Johnson started last year's Iron Bowl while White was hobbled with a left knee injury. He passed for 170 yards and a touchdown.
Malzahn said the first task in choosing a quarterback is to make sure White is healthy enough, then to figure out who gives Auburn the best chance of winning.
Kerryon Johnson said the team has believes all three candidates can get the job done.
''Whoever it is - Sean, Jeremy or John - we all have faith in them,'' he said. ''We just have to let it play out and see what happens.''
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