AUBURN, Ala. — JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow probably won’t be able to get away with what he did last Saturday during Auburn football’s annual spring game against, say, Alabama or LSU.
But that doesn’t change the fact the redshirt freshman running back impressed coaches, teammates and fans alike with a play that would only go down as a 1-yard gain.
In the first quarter, Whitlow took a standard handoff from Malik Willis and bounced it to the outside. As freshman safety Jamien Sherwood closed in on him for a sure tackle, Whitlow stretched the play even further with a stiff arm.
Then, 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Whitlow threw another stiff arm, reversed field and sprinted nearly 12 yards backwards before racing back up for a small positive gain.
Boobee Whitlow just made the most exciting 1 yard run you’ll ever see. Of course he had to run 100 yards to get it but ¯_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/ybgf29GDfv
— ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (@SkyeUnderwood) April 7, 2018
It was extremely risky, but it worked. More importantly, it showed a characteristic that has made Whitlow stand out in Auburn’s running back race this offseason.
“You can’t make a living in this league with the speed doing that, but I thought it was encouraging that he doesn’t like to go down,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said with a smile.
That’s the Boobee Whitlow experience. Whitlow made a name for himself at nearby LaFayette (Ala.) High School making similar plays, just as a dual-threat quarterback.
“He’ll be going backwards and still know he’s got this guy beat,” LaFayette coach James Lucas told SEC Country last spring.
Whitlow did something similar earlier in spring practices. During the Tigers’ first scrimmage, Whitlow reversed field on a run — and took it 70-plus yards for a touchdown.
Malzahn made special mention of that after the A-Day Game. He said the exciting running style and dynamic playmaking ability is already there for the young running back. Whitlow simply needs more reps.
“I think he just needs more experience and more carries between the tackles,” Malzahn said. “I think he played quarterback in high school, and he got some quarterback runs, but there’s nothing like getting that feel behind an offensive line playing tailback.”
Whitlow finished the spring game with 14 carries for 98 yards — the latter figure serving as the most for any scholarship running back. He punctuated several of his harder runs with jump cuts and spins that picked up a little more yardage.
Boobee Whitlow delivers a punishing blow knocking out two defenders pic.twitter.com/msxr0Hfmiq
— Power of Dixieland (@PwrofDixieland) April 9, 2018
The redshirt freshman has been one of the most talked-about players during camp, and he caught the eye of starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham on several occasions.
“He’s done a really good job,” Stidham said last Saturday. “He’s been making plays. He obviously can keep plays alive in some crazy ways. But it’s been really good to see him play.”
Whitlow will most likely be one of the running backs who will make the cut into the next round of the race that will continue into the summer and fall months.
He doesn’t have the in-game college experience of Kam Martin or Malik Miller, but that knack of doing whatever it takes to prevent a tackle could be a difference-maker in the competition.
“Boobee’s got that ability,” Malzahn said. “I mean, he just needs to carry the ball more, but he does have a unique ability. … He just needs some more experience.”