Following the Outback Bowl loss, it was clear Auburn had a running back room that was overcrowded, and the writing was on the wall that at least one player would end up transferring.
First, the starting running back for the last two years, Boobee Whitlow, entered his name in the transfer portal in February. Then, veteran back Malik Miller decided to leave the team in July.
Auburn was now left with four talented, but young running backs left on the roster. The veteran and fifth back in this group is Iron Bowl hero Shaun Shivers.
Shivers heads into his junior season after being used as a rotational back in his first two years. He racked up 657 yards and six touchdowns over his first two years, but now he's the group leader, a role he feels ready for.
"That's something that I always wanted to do," Shivers said on Wednesday. "Be a leader for the team, for the program, and just to let everybody feed off my energy. This year I just took on a big role like, it's time to step up this year and lead the team and do what I always did growing up, be a leader."
The group behind him is 4-star Tank Bigsby; the No. 4 running back in the class of 2020, sophomore D.J. Williams; sophomore Harold Joiner and redshirt freshman Mark-Antony Richards, who spent last season injured.
Richards is a guy who's already caught the eye of Shivers since fall camp started.
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"Mark-Antony… he's a bad man," Shivers said. "He just looks like a real dude, you know he playing fast, he playing physical and Mark-Antony will be good."
While the speedy Shivers has showcased his ability as a runner, he's also expanding his game to incorporate catching the ball out of the backfield more, with just six total receptions in his first two seasons.
"I've been working out every day, working my craft, working my game, working on catching the football, working on things I need to add to my game, catching kick returns and catching punts and things like that," Shivers said.
A crowded backfield could lead to tension, but Shivers and the rest of the running backs will work together and support each other.
"We don't really think about how many carries we're going to get a game or how much we're going to play in a game," Shivers said. "We're just here to support each other and get better as a room as a unit. At the end of the day, whoever gets the most carries or whatever, all us are going to go out there and do what we do, because that's why we came to Auburn — to make plays, do what we're being taught and add more explosiveness to the offense."
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