AU FB Outback v Minnesota

JaTarvious Whitlow (28) runs in the first half. Auburn football Outback Bowl v Minnesota on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 in Tampa, FL. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Auburn’s top running back is on his way out of the program.

JaTarvious Whitlow has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed Wednesday.

Whitlow led Auburn in rushing yards in each of the last two seasons but is now seeking a new team. Entering the transfer portal frees other programs to contact entered athletes for recruitment.

Whitlow just finished his redshirt sophomore season. He has two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining but will seemingly be forced to sit out for one if he transfers to another Division I FBS program.

“He’s looking for a fresh start somewhere else,” Malzahn said on Wednesday. “We appreciate his time here.

“We wish him nothing but the best.”

Whitlow posted his own message on his Instagram account Wednesday thanking fans and saying he will always have love for the Auburn family.

Whitlow rolled up 763 rushing yards last season after rushing for 787 yards in his breakout redshirt freshman season. He was a local hero signed out of LaFayette High School, and for two seasons, he was Auburn’s go-to back.

Auburn will turn to a host of mostly unproven talent in the backfield in 2020 without him. Rising sophomore D.J. Williams ran for 400 yards last season behind Whitlow. Auburn signed touted five-star prospect Tank Bigsby in December to join the running backs room, and expects another hyped high school prospect Mark-Antony Richards to be back at full speed before spring practice after he missed all of last season with a knee injury.

There are others. Rising junior Shaun Shivers will practice with Auburn football this spring, working it in around his track season, Malzahn announced Wednesday. Harold Joiner and Malik Miller took carries in the backfield last season as well.

“I think that’s a position that we’re very deep and we’re very young and talented,” Malzahn said. “We feel very good about the guys that we have.”

They’ll be in their second year under running backs coach Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams, but in an offense going into its first season under the influence of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

Malzahn noted Morris could also be asking some different things of those running backs this season.

“The thing that you’ll see him doing a little bit more than what we’ve done is get our backs out of the backfield, you know, matching them up on linebackers and all that and in the pass-catching and everything that goes with that,” Malzahn said. “So that will be an emphasis of his in the spring, also, but that is a position that we have a lot of depth. We have a lot of very talented young men, too.”

Malzahn spoke with media Wednesday afternoon on February’s Signing Day. AuburnSports.com reported Whitlow’s name had entered the transfer portal just hours earlier on Wednesday morning. Auburn signed three more players Wednesday to go with the 23 signed in December during the early signing period.

Bigsby was one of those December signees, now at Auburn as an early enrollee.

He and the rest of the remaining running backs figure to be ready to run when Auburn opens spring practice on March 16.

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