Blackerby Breakdown: Auburn’s 2018 Running Back Situation

By January 10, 2018Talent Columns

With the departure of Kerryon Johnson and Kam Pettway due to both teams declaring for the NFL Draft, Auburn fans are questioning the running back position going into 2018. While there are not a lot of returning production for the position, Gus Malzahn has shown that the position will be fine in 2018.

This chart shows Auburn’s successes with runners in Malzahn’s system since he arrived in 2009 as Auburn’s coordinator. During the 2012 season, he stepped away to coach Arkansas State. He returned in 2013.

Year Name Position Attempts Yards
2017 Kerryon Johnson RB 285 1,391
2016 Kamryn Pettway RB 209 1,224
2015 Peyton Barber RB 238 1,017
2014 Cameron Artis-Payne RB 303 1,608
2013 Tre Mason RB 317 1,816
2013 Nick Marshall QB 172 1,068
2012 Tre Mason RB 171 1,002
2011 Michael Dyer RB 242 1,242
2010 Cam Newton QB 264 1,473
2010 Michael Dyer RB 182 1,093
2009 Ben Tate RB 263 1,362

Auburn has been as consistent as any regarding finding players to run the football. They’ve had 11 1,000-yard rushers since 2009.

Auburn will take some talent with them into the offseason. Here’s a list of the guys that will fight for chances to carry the football this fall.

Kam Martin, 5’10”, 185.

Martin, a sophomore, is one of the fastest payers on Auburn’s squad. He received 74 carries for 453 yards. He scored 2 touchdowns on the ground. While Martin’s size and skillset screams that he could be effective catching the football out of the backfield, its been rumored that he continues to struggle to catch the ball in practice.

Devan Barrett, 6’0”, 185.

Barrett’s true freshman campaign resulted in a frustratingly small workload. He ran the ball 14 times for 79 yards. The former 4-star back was inserted in packages that resulted in him catching the football. He recorded 10 catches. Barrett is my favorite to be the lead back for Auburn in 2018. I expect him to gain some size during his first collegiate offseason.

Malik Miller, 5’11”, 225

Miller lacks burst that Auburn fans would like to see but has the size that is easier to trust between the tackles. Miller was the back that was called upon after Johnson got injured in the SEC Championship. Though I think he has the least amount of talent, I think the fact that he was the guy that was subbed in carries some weight in how the staff feels about him.

JaTarvious Whitlow, 6’0”, 216.

Whitlow was a last minute addition on National Signing day last year. The local kid was a touchdown machine as LaFayette’s quarterback. He fought through an injury during fall camp and was redshirted. It was assumed he was going to play wide receiver at the college level but he has reportedly impressed coaches during the bowl practices last month.

Asa Martin, 5’11”, 200

Martin shocked many when he chose Auburn over Alabama. After he chose the Tigers, the top back in the state of Alabama was all in of the Tigers. He attended most of Auburn’s home games and was an early enrollee so he could be a part of the team as early as possible. Martin has the most upside out of all of Auburn’s 2018 backs. Malzahn has hesitated to give freshmen a lot of touches, Martin may be used in a backup role early in his career but his talent may make it hard to keep him off of the field.