Muscle Shoals linebacker Jackson Bratton is Bama’s second commitment for the Class of 2020. (Photo from Jackson Bratton, via Twitter)
Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) had a 70-yard touchdown run during the Tigers’ first spring scrimmage on Saturday. (Julie Bennettfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Gus Malzahn wasn’t ready to say if any of Auburn’s five running backs created any separation in the Tigers’ ongoing backfield battle, but one definitely stood out among the pack during the team’s first scrimmage Saturday morning.
Each running back received between five and 10 carries during the roughly 100-play scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow made the most of his touches. The redshirt freshman made perhaps the most impressive play of the scrimmage, breaking off a nearly 70-yard touchdown run, according to a source, after reversing field behind the line of scrimmage.
"It was something like you see on ‘Madden,’ where you just go one way and he reversed the other way," left guard Marquel Harrell said. "It was a good run. It brought some energy to the field. It was a good run for him."
Whitlow’s highlight-reel touchdown run was one of the bright spots for an offense that committed five turnovers, including four interceptions, on the day.
It was also something that wasn’t completely unfamiliar to his teammates, who have almost come to expect such playmaking ability from the 6-foot, 216-pound running back.
"I saw that about Boobee, I think, last fall camp," right guard Mike Horton said. "I’ve always seen that about him. I’ve always spoke highly about Boobee. I know he’ll be a great player. I love him a lot."
Whitlow redshirted last season after injuring his ankle during fall camp, but the LaFayette native impressed in his limited opportunity before the injury and then gained some notoriety within the team for his explosiveness and elusive running style when he was cleared to return for practices during the Tigers’ bowl preparation at the end of last season.
His rise has continued this spring, as he competes with the likes of Kam Martin, Devan Barrett, Asa Martin and Malik Miller for the starting running back position in an offense needing to replace its two best running backs, Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.
"Boobee’s been pretty impressive all spring," linebacker Darrell Williams said. "I told him today, pretty much, the ball’s in his court. Whatever he wants to be, that’s what he can be…. I feel like Boobee is a guy who has a lot of spotlight on him right now just because of the improvement that he’s been doing. He had an injury last year, so he was kind of under the radar, but he’s coming out a little more, so that’s pretty good."
Malzahn said that he saw good things from all of Auburn’s running backs on Saturday, while multiple players also pointed to the performances of Kam Martin and Barrett out of the backfield during the first scrimmage. Still, there’s something about Whitlow’s ability to create something out of nothing that has made the former three-star recruit an offseason standout.
Malzahn and coaches will review the film from Saturday and start to establish a pecking order among the running backs–and it wouldn’t be surprising if Whitlow continues to rise to the top of that depth chart this spring.
"It’s funny, because I don’t know where he got the name Boobee from, but it’s like (the movie) ‘Friday Night Lights,’" Harrell said. "When you put Boobee in, we gonna win. That’s kind of what reminds me of Boobee. He brings great energy, which we need at times."
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.
Report: Alabama in talks for home-and-home series with Notre Dame, Texas
Alabama’s Michael Williams, middle, celebrates his 3-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on Monday, January 7, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald/MCT)
Alabama is in talks to hold home-and-home series with two college football powers at some point in the future, The Tuscaloosa News reported Saturday.
According to The News’ article, the Crimson Tide is trying to hammer out deals with Notre Dame and Texas — two of the teams Alabama defeated to win national titles during the Nick Saban dynasty years.
Alabama last played a home-and-home series against a non-conference opponent in 2010 and 2011, when Penn State came to Tuscaloosa and Alabama visited State College, Pa. in consecutive years.
The Tide has opened the season against high-profile programs at neutral sites the last six seasons.
In September, Alabama will face Louisville in Orlando.