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Auburn running back JaTarvious 'Boobee' Whitlow enters transfer portal

The Montgomery Advertiser logoThe Montgomery Advertiser 2/5/2020 Josh Vitale, Montgomery Advertiser

AUBURN ⁠— JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow is the first player to lead Auburn in rushing in back-to-back seasons since Tre Mason in 2012-13, but he won't make it three straight.

The rising junior running back has entered the transfer portal, according to multiple reports, first from Matt Zenitz of AL.com.

It appears to be the end to what was a great underdog story for Whitlow at Auburn. He was a two-way standout at nearby LaFayette High, totaling 2,292 passing yards, 2,147 rushing yards and 59 touchdowns playing quarterback as a senior, but he didn't receive much Power 5 interest. In fact, he was all set to go to Tulane leading up to National Signing Day 2017.

A last-minute call from defensive coordinator Kevin Steele changed that. Then-first-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey wanted the three-star athlete ranked 527th nationally as a wide receiver. Whitlow switched to running back during his first fall on campus, and while he didn't play at all that season after suffering an injury, quickly vaulted to the top of the depth chart in 2018 after the early departures of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.

A physical, go-ahead 10-yard touchdown run in a season-opening win over Washington in Atlanta marked his arrival. Whitlow finished his debut campaign with 787 yards and six touchdowns on 150 carries (5.3 average). He rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the Tigers' next two games that season and erupted for 170 in a win at Ole Miss in October.

As a sophomore this past season, the LaFayette product carries 156 times for 763 yards (4.9 average) and 10 touchdowns despite missing the better part of three games due to a knee injury suffered during a loss at Florida.

Injuries (he missed multiple games due to ankle, shoulder and knee ailments), fumbles (he lost 5 of 8 over two seasons) and an offensive line that struggled to run block held him back at times, but through it all, the coaching staff clearly trusted him

Until this offseason, that is.

If there is a silver lining to be found in this situation, it's that the Tigers do have a ton of depth at running back beyond Whitlow and departed senior Kam Martin, who finished third on the team in rushing last season.

D.J. Williams, who filled in ably or Whitlow last season when he missed time after undergoing knee surgery, will be back after carrying 84 times for 400 yards and two touchdowns in nine games as a four-star true freshman. Role player Shaun Shivers (55 carries, 286 yards, 3 touchdowns), veteran Malik Miller (12 carries, 42 yards) and gadget guy Harold Joiner (12 carries, 94 yards, 1 score) are also set to return.

Auburn will also add Mark-Antony Richards, a four-star athlete who missed the entire 2019 season after undergoing knee injury; and Tank Bigsby, a five-star true freshman, to the mix. Richards is expected to be healthy for the start of spring practice and Bigsby is enrolled early, so both will get plenty of chances to showcase their ability before the start of the 2020 season.

They each have a lot of it. Richards totaled more than 1,300 rushing yards and 3,000 all-purpose yards as a senior at Wellington (Fla.) High and has drawn comparisons to Johnson for both his running style and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Bigsby carried 143 times for 1,636 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior at Callaway High in LaGrange, Georgia, and is the fourth-highest-rated signee the Tigers have ever brought in at the position, behind only Michael Dyer, position coach Cadillac Williams and Roc Thomas.

a group of people that are standing in the snow: Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) takes the field during pregame warm ups at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. © Jake Crandall Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) takes the field during pregame warm ups at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.

The only thing those six players don't have is Whitlow's experience — he finishes his time at Auburn 1,550 rushing yards on 306 carries. No one else on the roster has more than 600 career rushing yards.

This story will be updated.

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Auburn running back JaTarvious 'Boobee' Whitlow enters transfer portal

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