Auburn will be forced to replace its leading rusher next season.
JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow, who would have been returning for his junior season, entered the transfer portal, AL.com first reported Tuesday.
Whitlow has been Auburn’s top running back for the last two seasons, rushing for 787 yards and six touchdowns in 2018 and 763 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019. He was also used as the wildcat quarterback in the offensive scheme.
Following a Florida game where he had 18 carries for 81 yards, Whitlow missed some time with a knee surgery. At the time of injury it was announced he would be out for over a month, but instead the back returned in a limited role against LSU and was used with a normal workload in the Iron Bowl.
Before injury, Whitlow was second in the SEC in rushing yards, just behind Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill.
During his time at Auburn, fumbling was a major issue for the back. In 2019 Whitlow had five fumbles including one in the Iron Bowl and one in the Outback Bowl. During his freshman season he had three fumbles.
With Whitlow gone, Auburn now turns to rising sophomore D.J. Williams who was the primary back behind Whitlow in 2019. Williams' first big opportunity came against LSU where he had 13 carries for 130 yards, including a 70-yard rush. Williams was awarded SEC freshman of the week for his performance.
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Following LSU, Williams was unable to fully replicate that performance, racking up just 190 yards over the next five games.
Depth is not an issue in the running back room even with Whitlow’s departure for the Tigers. Behind Williams is rising junior Shaun Shivers who has 125 carries for 657 yards and six touchdowns in his two years of experience at Auburn.
Auburn returns rising sophomore Harold Joiner who was used primarily as a receiving back in 2019, with six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
After dealing with a leg injury that kept him out of 2019, redshirt freshman Mark Antony-Richards will be a ‘go’ for the 2020 season and has been highly praised by coaches for his running and receiving abilities. And,the prized recruit of the 2020 class, Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby was a dominant, 5-star recruit in high school and is already on campus as an early enrollee for the Tigers.
After signing with Auburn, head coach Gus Malzahn called Bigbsy a “one-play drive type of guy.”
The Tigers also return rising senior Malik Miller, who was used as a pass-block specialist in 2019.
While Williams is the favorite to inherit the starting role, all the backs are on campus and will have an opportunity to fight for the role before Auburn hosts Alcorn State to start the season.
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