Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country
Auburn running backs (from left) Boobee Whitlow, Asa Martin, Kam Martin, Devan Barrett and Malik Miller (not pictured) will compete for an edge in the running back battle during the coming weeks.

Countdown to A Day spring game critical for Auburn running back contenders

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Let’s shed some light on that Auburn running back competition! I keep hearing JaTarvious Whitlow’s name getting thrown around…

AUBURN, Ala. — Running backs have been a hot topic of discussion for Auburn football this spring and that’s not changing anytime soon.

Now that players have returned from spring break, practices will intensify as the A Day spring game in Jordan-Hare approaches. The Tigers had their first contact practice right before the break, but after implementing the foundations through early workouts, now is when the real football starts.

That’s especially true for Auburn’s running back room. Auburn’s running backs have less than three weeks to steal the spotlight before taking the field in front of an audience. Malzahn has said he’s looking for an order in the backfield — one that will propel him into fall camp.

“We’ve got some position battles, obviously, at the ruining back position,” Malzahn said March 1. “That’ll be a big key for this spring. That group will probably get tackled more than we have in the past, but that will be by design to make sure we leave spring with some kind of depth chart, some kind of order.”

So let’s recap the candidates for a starting job.

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We’ve heard the most about redshirt freshman JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow. H-back Chandler Cox said the Lafayette, Ala., native was like a mix of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, which bodes well for the underclassman. Whitlow is an all-around athlete who’s been screaming his way through early practices.

Kam Martin’s name has come up a good bit. He’s the guy with the most experience and arguably the most speed. He knows what it’s like to get a good number of carries, and should be most familiar with Auburn’s offense.

Devan Barrett arguably is the best fit for a starting role in 2018 considering how Chip Lindsey wants to run his offense. The Tampa Catholic product has a wide receiver skill set and could challenge Martin in terms of speed.

Malik Miller has dealt with injuries, but he played alongside Johnson in high school. He’s capable, but his name hasn’t been dropped often. He also has valuable experience and should be familiar with the offense. His 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame could benefit Auburn, but he’s going to have to put on a show in the coming weeks if he wants to enter starter conversation.

Then there’s newcomer Asa Martin. I wrote a few weeks ago that the best thing for Martin would be to redshirt, for a number of reasons. Still, he’s talented and capable of playing in his first season. Players have discussed Martin, mostly because reporters have asked how he’s acclimating to his new home.

MORE: Running back by committee hasn’t been Gus Malzahn’s style, which should tell you something 

Depending on who you ask, the point is this: What you hear in the next three weeks and what fans see in the spring game is significant.

There’s a good chance that the player who starts and shines in the first half of the spring game is the one fans will see kick off things in September. Malzahn probably isn’t going to name a starter in the spring, but fans should be able to get a pretty good read on who’s leading the pack.

As of now the competition is wide open, but give it a couple weeks and there will be clarification on Auburn’s running back race.