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Running backs coach Tim Horton said Kam Martin would be Auburn's starter if the Tigers played before September.

Auburn football: Who starts at running back for Tigers during Week 1?

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Who starts at running back Week 1?

AUBURN, Ala. — When the Auburn running backs have been brought up in the past, I’ve often maintained a different viewpoint than my colleagues.

For example, early on last season I voiced a concern about the depth chart — that there really wasn’t one after Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. Our differing opinions has made the fact that my colleagues Justin Ferguson and Benjamin Wolk and I have boarded the JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow hype train an interesting one this spring.

Then running back coach Tim Horton made this statement earlier this month:

“It would be Kam Martin,” Horton said Thursday before his appearance at the Jackson County Auburn Club annual meeting. “He would be the first one to go out on the field. Obviously we don’t play today and so is he going to start against Washington? That kinda remains to be seen. But Kam would be first-team if we played today.”

I was somewhat surprised. OK, really surprised. Sure, Martin has experience and speed, but in the two weeks leading up to the spring game we’d actually heard more about Malik Miller than Martin.

There was no doubt Martin would compete for time, but to be the first one on the field? I just didn’t see it.

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My first thought upon hearing the revelation was the fall is a long ways out. A lot can happen this summer and once Auburn begins preseason camp in the fall. Horton essentially said that.

Then I started thinking and realized that I had no hesitation in believing Martin will be the first on the field for the Tigers when they open against Washington in September. However, that doesn’t mean he will be the only one on the field or end the season as Auburn’s starter.

Gus Malzahn is looking at a different running back room this season. As of now, there’s not a leader who is ahead of the pack. In the past, it seemed like size and ball security were at least slight concerns when it came to Martin. One of those may change, but he’s not exactly the most imposing player on the field.

In my opinion, it’s only appropriate to start thinking about the starting running back a couple of weeks into fall camp. Injuries can happen when camp is most intense, and Martin doesn’t have a clean injury history.

Yet regardless of who is named the starter or who takes the field first against the Huskies, the important thing to keep in mind is this: It doesn’t matter.

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With Pettway suspended for the opener last season, Johnson and Martin rushed for 136 yards each. In all, eight players tallied at least a single carry against the Eagles. There won’t be that many people who attempt a carry against Washington. It’s a very different opponent than Georgia Southern. Still, Auburn will have more than one player in its backfield.

Auburn won’t know who its starter is until the Tigers have hosted LSU and are starting to prepare for Arkansas. That doesn’t mean the backfield will be a debacle in the early weeks of the season. Still, no matter how prepared J.B. Grimes’ offensive line is, no matter who comes out of camp with the most momentum, it’s going to take playing against true competition to establish a starter at running back.

During winter break every basketball season students head home to spend time with families, and college teams all over the country are forced to scrimmage against each other for at least a short time.

In my experience, it’s easy for the competition to dwindle when you’re going against your own teammates every day. There’s something different about a game counting, a relaxed intensity that teams can’t conjure up in preseason.

I’m still on the Whitlow train. I think Miller has a chance to be the guy. Time will tell, but don’t be surprised if the Week 1 starter finishes the season on the sidelines.