Courtesy: Todd Van Emst/ Auburn Athletics
This is the second of an eight part season preview season for Auburn’s 2021 season. There will be a new piece every week until the season kicks off September 4th against Akron. Today we continue with Running backs.
The Auburn running back room is the crown jewel of the offense heading into 2021. Lead by SEC Freshman of the Year last year Tank Bigsby, the unit will be the most productive unit on Auburn’s offense. Along with Bigsby, Senior Shaun Shivers looks to be one of the best no. 2 options at RB in the SEC this year. The thin group is rounded out by former 3-star out of Philadelphia, MS, true freshman Jarquez Hunter. The group also includes 2 redshirt freshmen in Jay Sharp and Jordan Ingram, and a number of walk-ons.
RB1: Tank Bigsby
No surprise that Tank Bigsby will be the number 1 option for Auburn this fall. Bigsby very well could be an All-American when this season is finished. As a true freshman in 2020, Bigsby ran for 834 yard and five touchdowns, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. If you watched Auburn play last year and saw how poorly their offensive line was every week, you will understand how impressive Bigsby’s numbers are and why he was SEC Freshman of the Year. Bigsby did get banged up late in the season, and his production was limited the last few games. In 2021, Auburn will surely rotate their running backs more to avoid injuries. Bigsby will eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground and even have double digit touchdowns as Auburn’s number 1 running back. Bigsby will be up for every major award given to running backs, and we will hear all about how he is one of the top running back prospects in 2022.
RB2: Shaun Shivers
Senior captain Shaun Shivers will backup Tank Bigsby. Auburn really has a great 1-2 punch at running back heading into 2021. Shivers, with combo of speed at power, can do just about every thing asked of a running back. While only 5’7, Shivers runs like the great power running backs like Bo Jackson, LaGarrette Blount, and Brandon Jacobs. He can also run straight past any defender chasing him down. The tailback also featured on Auburn’s track and field team, finishing top 25 in the SEC prelims in 2019. Shivers blend of power and speed give Auburn a great option at no. 2 because he will not limit anything Auburn wants to do offensively with Bigsby getting a breather on the sidelines.
RB3: Jarquez Hunter
True freshman Jarquez Hunter has been the recipient of plenty of praise ever since he arrived on campus. Head coach Bryan Harsin, OC Mike Bobo, and RB coach Cadillac Williams have all praised Hunter for his effort and ability on the field and learning the play book. Hunter is similar in stature to Bigsby, listed at 5’10, 202 lbs, he is your prototypical SEC running back. In high school, Hunter amassed 5,761 yards and 77 TDs as a 3 year varsity player. “Special” is the word Auburn coaches have used to describe him. Even though he was a three-star recruit out of high school, Hunter could very well be the Auburn starters in the years to come.
RB4 and Beyond:
Like most programs, Auburn has several walk-on RBs. I do not expect any of them to make an impact on the offense in 2021. There is a chance they could feature on Special Teams. I do want to talk about true freshman Jay Sharp. Sharp is maybe the most interesting back not mentioned above. Sharp is listed at 5’8, 164 lbs. He was recruited by Gus Malzahn because of his speed and quickness, similar to Bigsby. Auburn is mostly leaving behind the spread offense Malzahn brought to The Plains and going with more pro style concepts. Bryan Harsin talked about running the I-formation, but this roster does not have a true fullback. Sharp is definitely too small to play fullback right now, but I can see the potential of him moving there based on his size alone. Being behind Bigsby and Hunter, Sharp and fellow redshirt freshman Jordan Ingram, are several years away from looking at regular playing time for Auburn.