One pressing question heading into fall camp for Auburn was who will step up to replace Kerryon Johnson at running back.
Kam Martin is the frontrunner to be the starter for the opener against Washington, but a trio of freshman running backs have also impressed offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.
Redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow, and true freshies Asa Martin and Shaun Shivers have displayed talent in hopes to compete for playing time this season. The three running backs have unique skill sets that each brings to the position.
Whitlow, a former high school quarterback, was redshirted last season as he learned the position at the collegiate level. Lindsey has been pleased with Whitlow's development thus far.
"He's a bigger back that brings a downhill attitude," Lindsey said. "He's done a nice job studying the offense. When you put the ball in his hands he can do a lot of good things. I think he's everything he can do to put himself in the position to play."
Asa Martin, a consensus 2018 four-star recruit and 2017 Alabama High School Player of the Year, is looking to make an impact at the position this season as a true freshman. Martin has stood out since arriving on campus in January. One thing Lindsey requires of his tailbacks, in addition to carrying the football, is the ability to pass protect, which Martin has done well in learning through camp.
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"He's a smart guy and was well coached in high school," Lindsey said. "Protecting the quarterback is a priority and Asa played at a program that understands how to protect. As long as he can get into that rhythm with the speed of the game, he should be fine."
Shivers, the most recent addition to the Tigers backfield, arrived earlier this summer. Shivers is a smaller back but brings a different dynamic for Auburn. He has already impressed Lindsey in the short amount of time while on campus.
"He's got a chance to bring a different style to the table," Lindsey said. "We are going to try to use him in some unique ways. He ran a 10.2 in the 100 meters and that is fast. He's explosive."
Lindsey is hoping the first scrimmage, set for Thursday, can bring some answers at the running back position. The team's first full-pads practice Tuesday already shed some light onto a possible pecking order, with Jarrett Stidham handing to Kam Martin and Malik Miller, Malik Willis handing to Chandler Cox and Asa Martin, Joey Gatewood to Whitlow, Cord Sandberg to C.J. Tolbert and Devin Adams to Shivers.
"We want to see who can execute," Lindsey said. "Let's hand the ball to them a bunch and see who can run the ball when they are tired. We hope to narrow things down from a personnel standpoint."
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