Plainsman sports writer Sumner Martin gives a sneak peek at who could be starting for the Tigers in 2019 as Gus Malzahn enters his seventh season as head coach.
Stay tuned for Friday's defense and special teams installment.
QB: Bo Nix
2. Malik Willis, Joey Gatewood, Cord Sandberg
Auburn will have four quarterbacks on the roster to compete for the job when fall camp comes around. Willis, whose strengths are his speed and athleticism on the read option, is the returning backup but has yet to show if he can be effective throwing the ball. Gatewood is in a similar situation, with the capabilities of a dual-threat quarterback, but questions loom over his passing ability and experience.
Nix, who enrolled in the spring, is the highest-rated quarterback to sign with Malzahn out of high school and appears the have the arm talent to make it as a starter in the SEC. I expect Alabama’s Mr. Football and the Under Armor All-American to come in and win the job right away, despite being a true freshman, barring another transfer.
RB: JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow
2. Kam Martin, Shaun Shivers, Malik Miller
This job is Whitlow’s to lose. The sophomore had a breakout year in 2018 leading the Tigers with 777 yards rushing and four touchdowns, as well as hauling in 14 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. Whitlow, not to downgrade any of the other options, simply is the most talented back and the one ablest to carry the load of a full SEC season. However, both Martin and Shivers will be used as backups with their speed and agility on the outside.
HB: Harold Joiner
Joiner, who was recruited out of high school as a running back, was redshirted last year to get ready to step in at H-back instead of tailback. The Mountain Brook native wasn’t seen much last year; however, he did score out of the wildcat formation against Alabama State. Joiner is an athlete who has the potential to receive and block at the H-back position, if he can put some weight on, and if Malzahn can utilize him in the right ways in the passing game.
TE: John Samuel Shenker
2. Tyler Fromm, Luke Deal
Shenker will most likely be the starter, with the only competition behind him being two true freshmen in Fromm and Deal. Shenker, who caught several touchdowns in 2018 as a freshman himself, has the experience returning as a sophomore in 2019 and should continue to improve as a more reliable target in Malzahn’s offense.
WR (Flanker): Eli Stove OR Anthony Schwartz
Both these receivers could end up being on the field at the same time. Stove, who sat out last year with an ACL injury after a successful freshman campaign, is supposed to be healthy to step back in.
Even if he isn’t, Schwartz had an impressive first year in 2018 as the Tigers jet-sweep option and a deep threat down the field and is more than capable. Schwartz finished 2018 with 27 carries for 236 yards and five touchdowns, and 22 receptions for 357 yards and two touchdowns.
WR (Big slot): Sal Cannella OR Will Hastings
Cannella showed signs of improvement in his junior season in 2018, filling in for Hastings who also had an ACL injury that caused him to miss the entire season. The junior college product finished with 12 catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns. It is yet to be seen if Hastings will be the same in 2019 coming off his recovery.
WR (Split end): Seth Williams
2. Shedrick Jackson
Williams was maybe the biggest surprise on the offensive side of the ball last season. In his freshman season, he led Auburn averaging 20.5 yards per catch and tied Darius Slayton with five touchdowns. 2019 could be a big season for the sophomore as the Tigers top big-play threat and the next step in the young receiver’s development.
WR (Slot): Anthony Schwartz OR George Pickens
This slot is wide open for the time being, with Slayton unexpectedly declaring for the NFL Draft after the bowl win. Pickens, who is one of most sought after wide receiver recruits in the country, could be a surprise starter at this position if he does end up signing with the Tigers in February. If not, Auburn has depth to move players around.
RT: Jack Driscoll
RG: Mike Horton
C: Kaleb Kim
LG: Marquel Harrell
LT: Prince Tega Wanogho
The Tigers’ offensive line had a rough 2018 season, however there is a silver lining. All five starters return, and all five are seniors. The unit also got a much needed boost when Tega Wanogho returned for the 2019 season after contemplating leaving early for the NFL Draft.
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