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Auburn2Eugene

RB order taking shape

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There’s little that makes an offensive coordinator more nervous than seeing a running back blow a protection and allow a pass rusher careen toward the quarterback unencumbered.

Chip Lindsey has seen JaTarvious Whitlow do that a time or two this fall, just as he has every other running back. But he has also seen Whitlow spend extra time with the team’s graduate assistants in an effort to really study the offense and make sure those mistakes are fewer and farther in between.

“When you put the ball in his hands, I think he can do a lot of good things. But there are so many other plays that’s he’s got to understand what’s going on and I think he’s improved there,” Lindsey said Tuesday. “I think he’s trying everything he can do to put himself in position to play a lot.”

 

Whitlow is one of seven players vying for a role in an Auburn offense that is replacing its last two 1,000-yard rushers in Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. The redshirt freshman out of nearby LaFayette is doing so with what head coach Gus Malzahn described as an “urgency” to be a factor this season.

The Tigers’ first practice in full pads on Tuesday — two days before the team’s first fall scrimmage on Thursday — offered a first look at how that competition might be taking shape. Reporters were not able to see any full-team drills during the 20-minute window that was open for viewing, but there did appear to be at least some sort of pecking order during position drills:

  1. Kam Martin
  2. JaTarvious Whitlow
  3. Asa Martin
  4. Chandler Cox
  5. Malik Miller
  6. Shaun Shivers
  7. C.J. Tolbert

Of note: Devan Barrett and Harold Joiner are not listed there because they have not been working with the team’s running backs, but rather with its wide receivers so far this fall.

The first name on that list should come as no surprise. Malzahn and running backs coach Tim Horton have said since the spring ended that Kam Martin was in line to receive the first carry when Auburn opens the season against Washington in Atlanta on Sept. 1, and nothing has happened to change that.

The 5-foot-10 junior has more collegiate experience than every other player in the room combined with 118 carries for 773 yards and five touchdowns over the past two seasons, and coaches say he has added bulk to his 193-pound frame in order to better withstand the rigors of being an SEC running back and the responsibility of pass blocking.

“We have confidence in Kam. We feel like he’ll be able to run the entire offense this year,” Malzahn said.

“I think Kam Martin bring a calming effect because he’s played some and he’s a smart guy,” Lindsey added. “He’s put on a little weight so he’s bigger now. I’m excited to see that.”

But just because Martin is in line to get the first carry against the Huskies doesn’t mean he’s in line for the 200-plus carries Pettway and Johnson received in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Cox taking handoffs may not mean he’s truly in the mix at running back, either.

The senior is about to be a four-year starter at H-back — something Malzahn said he doesn’t know if he’s ever had at that position before — yet he’s carried just eight times for 15 yards over the course of his entire career. Four of those came on direct snaps out of the ill-fated “CoxCat” formation and four were tosses. None were direct handoffs.

“I think right now, he’s a veteran guy, and in certain situations, he could be very valuable at that position as we’re filtering through these young guys until some of them really step up,” Malzahn said. “I think it’s probably a little bit of a security blanket going in with a veteran guy that can do all the protections.”

 
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Auburn running back Asa Martin (20) carries during the first practice of the spring on Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.

The more interesting names behind Kam Martin and Whitlow — for different reasons — might be those of rookies Asa Martin and Shivers.

There’s every indication the younger Martin has what it takes to be a feature back more in the vein of a Pettway or Johnson. He’s got the size at 5-foot-11 and 209 pounds, the pedigree as the reigning Alabama Mr. Football, and the proven production after rushing for 2,228 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior at Austin High in Decatur.

The 5-foot-7, 173-pound Shivers doesn’t fit that same mold, but don’t let his diminutive stature fool you in any way: He rushed for more than 2,200 yards as a senior for state-champion Chaminade-Madonna Prep as a senior, finished his high school career as one of the fastest sprinters in the state of Florida and is enough of an athlete that Auburn has also tried him at wide receiver as well as running back so far this fall.

“Asa Martin has been a surprise for sure. We knew he was going be a good player. He’s a smart guy. He was well coached in high school so you can tell he understands what’s going on,” Lindsey said. “Shaun Shivers has been impressive. He’s a freshman that’s explosive. I like him. I watched him in the state championship game carry the ball like 30 times for 200 some odd yards so he’s got a chance to bring a little bit different style to the table. We’ll try to use him in some unique ways.”

Whitlow, though, has both the size — he’s listed at 6-foot and 216 pounds, but Lindsey said he has gotten leaner since the spring — and tantalizing athletic ability you want in a running back. He passed for 2,292 yards, rushed for 2,147 more and totaled 59 touchdowns as a high school senior playing quarterback for LaFayette, and while he has yet to appear in a college game outside of April’s A-Day scrimmage (14 carries, 98 yards), he has continued to flash those gifts to teammates on the practice field.

That, plus the extra effort Lindsey spoke of Tuesday, is a big reason why he’s right near the top of that pecking order out of the backfield.

“Whitlow’s caught my eye a couple of times. He’s playing with great effort and great energy,” Malzahn said. “He’s gotten better, and I think the thing about his urgency is it’s important to him. You can really tell that he’s really urgent and wanting to play. If he makes a mistake, he’s not happy about it. That’s always a good sign.”

 
 
 

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Opelika-Auburn News. You can follow him on Twitter at@AUBlog. To reach him by email, click here.

https://www.oanow.com/sports/college/auburn/football/auburn-s-running-back-pecking-order-begins-to-take-shape/article_349804de-9ac1-11e8-8d1e-97a48fcfd352.html

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Main thing I take from this is Malik Miller really isn't part of the plan. A lot of people on here expect him to eventually turn the corner. With him behind Cox taking snaps, it pretty much means he isn't in the plan at all. Especially since Cox isn't expected to run the ball... at all... 

Edited by Auburn2Eugene
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I think Asa will be the bell cow in the offense by the end of the year. He will not carry the ball like KJ did (nobody will) but I think he will be our best back by then. Kam will be very good but sometimes I worry about him holding on to the ball. 

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6 minutes ago, gr82b4au said:

I think Asa will be the bell cow in the offense by the end of the year. He will not carry the ball like KJ did (nobody will) but I think he will be our best back by then. Kam will be very good but sometimes I worry about him holding on to the ball. 

Knowing Gustav’s desire to truly trust a player, I’m not sure Asa will be the guy. 2019 and beyond, sure, but I think he wants to keep the ball in the hands of that guy(s) that have proven their reliability. By his freshman nature, he hasn’t been able to do that yet. Who knows, I’ve been wrong a couple times. 

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I really think we are going to see RB by committee this season more than in any of Gus's previous seasons. I think that CCL will have more control of the running game over the 2017 season.  IF this comes to fruition, then this will be a good thing for our offense. We could be looking at 2 RBs each rushing for over 1000 yards that bodes very well for our rushing game. This is going to be the year that Gus gets it all together offensive wise in both the running and passing game. I guess I am a glass half full kind of guy on this one and hope that I am right.

It is time for the break out offensive season we have all been looking to see transpire.  2018 will be the season that will define Gus' ability to be the HC we have all been waiting to see. He came close last season, but missed the target in 4 games that we hope will not repeat in 2019. I am willing to give Gus a full blown 110% chance to get it right in a big way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My interpretation is that Boobert is a half step behind Kam and those two are far above the rest. I’d love several two back sets, Kam is a fantastic receiving potential and Jatarvious should be strong enough to pass block well (and they could probably vice versa those roles)

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From listening to Gus' comments (and I heartily agree), if Boobie stays healthy and doesnt get fumblitis he'll be carrying the rock the most when all's said & done and be all over the field this Fall - including wheel routes and wildcat. Asa should be nipping right at his heals.

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3 minutes ago, bigbird said:

KMart

Asa

Boobie

Snuffleupagus approves:

 

giphy.gif

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39 minutes ago, The Plainsman said:

I believe Asa understands pass protection. 

I understand it. But don’t put me out there. ;)

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2 hours ago, Dual-Threat Rigby said:

My interpretation is that Boobert is a half step behind Kam and those two are far above the rest. I’d love several two back sets, Kam is a fantastic receiving potential and Jatarvious should be strong enough to pass block well (and they could probably vice versa those roles)

Sir Boobert at your service

IMG_1392.GIF

Btw I've talked about two back sets for a while. It would be so beneficial imo.

Edited by WFE12
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It would be awesome getting 2 backs over 1,000. Not even Cadillac and Ronnie accomplished that feat. KMart and Boobie, or KMart and AMart. 

It would be nice, and if we start having 2 backs reach 1,000 there is no way it could hurt our RB recruiting. 

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15 hours ago, WFE12 said:

Sir Boobert at your service

IMG_1392.GIF

Btw I've talked about two back sets for a while. It would be so beneficial imo.

It’s been startling how talented the two deep typically is with Gus and how little he uses the formation. You might get RB and HB, but that’s not what we want. Even when KJ went out in 2016, he could’ve done KP and Kam Martin/Stove. One great pass blocker and one great receiving/speed back

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Nothing annoys a fan base more than hurrying up after a big play and having an OC/HC running it up the middle every dang time!!!!!! 😞  This happens way more than a missed assignment by a RB.  An honest question, I wonder what percentage of throws our RB's are actually asked to block, excluding having an HB in the position?

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On 8/8/2018 at 9:02 PM, bigbird said:

KMart

Asa

Boobie

I thought Kmart was your boy.  Not sure why you would call him a boobie. 🤔

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I think the ability to play redshirts takes away another concern for Gus.  This may open up more opportunities to use the young guys. 

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4 minutes ago, AlaskanFAN said:

Seems C.J. Tolbert is getting the Spring game curse. 

Most walk on RBs do

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