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Auburn’s Star RB is Out 4-6 Weeks. Who’s Next for the Tigers?
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Auburn’s 24-13 loss on the road against the Florida Gators stung. The Tigers dropped to 5-1 on the year, effectively landing them outside of the College Football Playoff picture this season. Freshman quarterback Bo Nix finished with a dismal 6.6 quarterback rating and threw three interceptions. The nail in the coffin came when UF’s Lamical Perine broke free and scampered 88 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.

Then, things went from bad to worse when news broke that Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow had surgery on his left knee and will be sidelined for at least a month.

JaTarvious Whitlow Injury

While no injury is ever well-timed, Whitlow’s injury comes during an open date in the Auburn Tigers’ schedule. Head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff, including Auburn legend Cadillac Williams, now the team’s running backs coach, have a weekend off to adjust their offense. It won’t be easy considering Auburn’s 19th-ranked rushing offense averaged 229.8 yards through the team’s 5-1 start.

Whitlow was the bell cow, too. The redshirt sophomore led the team in carries (110), rushing yards (544), and rushing touchdowns (7) before his injury, all of which ranked first or second in the SEC.

“It sucks,” senior Kam Martin said. “Boobee is one of our guys.”

Who’s the Next Auburn RB?

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Martin will likely take over the bulk of the workload in Whitlow’s absence, but he won’t be the only tailback toting the rock. Sophomore Shaun Shivers is averaging 5.3 yards per carry in limited work. Junior Malik Miller hasn’t touched the ball much this year, but the 235-pound bruiser from Huntsville, Alabama has found the end zone six total times in his career.

The most intriguing prospect, however, is true freshman D.J. Williams. The dual-threat athlete at Sebring High School in Lake Placid, Florida amassed over 1,000 rushing yards, 1,000 passing yards, and accounted for 34 total touchdowns as a senior.

“I honestly feel like D.J. Williams is wise beyond his years. He did not look like your typical 17-year-old freshman. The lights didn’t look too big for him,” Cadillac Williams said in the fall. “He has picked up the system really well. I am very high on D.J. I love his attitude and his work ethic.”

Auburn’s schedule doesn’t get easier after this bye week, with road games against the surprisingly competitive Arkansas Razorbacks and a massive showdown in Baton Rouge against the LSU Tigers. But then, Auburn doesn’t travel the rest of the regular season as they’ll host Ole Miss, Georgia, Samford, and Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

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It’s optimistic that JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow returns from his knee injury before Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs roll into town, but until then, it’ll be a running back by committee as Gus Malzahn and Auburn football continues to move forward.

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John joins the FanBuzz team with five years of experience freelancing as a sports writer for TheDupes.net and Football.com. A graduate of Penn State University, John currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
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