Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Running backs

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Running backs will be previewing each of nine position groups leading up to the start of Auburn's fall camp on Aug. 3. The second installment in the series reviews the running backs.

For the first time in a long time, Auburn enters a season with a truly wide open running back competition that has far more questions than answers.

In 2015, nobody saw Peyton Barber's emergence coming but Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas were heralded as recruits. A year later, Robinson's dismissal created uncertainty but Kerryon Johnson was a highly-regarded recruit and Kamryn Pettway burst on the scene.

But with Johnson and Pettway gone, Kam Martin is the most proven returning piece and he had 74 carries for 453 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Behind Martin, Auburn has tons of depth and talent but no proven commodities.

Kam Martin leads, but Auburn wants to identify 3 RBs to step up this fall

However, if there's any position that's earned the benefit of the doubt for Auburn it is at running back, where position coach Tim Horton has managed to produce 1,000-yard rushers year after year.

Departed: Kerryon Johnson, Kamryn Pettway

Returning starter: N/A

Other returning players: Kam Martin, junior; Malik Miller, redshirt-sophomore; Devan Barrett, sophomore; JaTarvious Whitlow, redshirt-freshman; Asa Martin, freshman

Summer arrivals: Harold Joiner, Shaun Shivers

Outlook: Gus Malzahn, Chip Lindsey and Horton have all said Martin would be the first running back to take the field at this point, but he still has plenty of questions to answer.

Martin is not a proven between-the-tackles runner, though not by any fault of his own, and his size had made pass protection a concern previously. If he enters the season near 200 pounds that will help his durability.

After Martin is where things enter a complete unknown.

RELATED: Post-spring RB depth chart breakdown

Malik Miller was only called upon in mop-up duty last year. Devan Barrett has essentially moved to receiver with Eli Stove recovering from a torn ACL. JaTarvious Whitlow showed flashes of playmaking ability in bowl practices and in the spring but still hasn't played a down. Then there's true freshmen in Asa Martin, Harold Joiner and Shaun Shivers and how quickly any of them can stand out.

Whitlow is the most likely to emerge from the pack because of his size and ability to turn something out of nothing, but he also has to do so while protecting the ball.

Asa Martin and Joiner were both heralded as recruits and Shivers offers a change of pace and entirely different skill set.

Battle to Watch: Who emerges as No. 2 behind Kam Martin.

Because of his size, Martin might be the starter but someone else could be the third-down back, which gives them that many more chances to prove themselves.

Keep an Eye on: Whitlow. He's the most versatile and can keep plays alive.

Projected two deep:

Kam Martin (5-foot-10, 193 pounds)
JaTarvious Whitlow (6-foot, 216 pounds)

from Auburn Sports Impact

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