Auburn football: JaTarvious Whitlow lands with FCS program

The former Auburn starting running back has finally chosen his new school.

After months of deliberation, former Auburn star JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow has finally chosen where exactly his football journey will continue.

After placing his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal back in February, the 6-foot, 210-pound has decided to take his talents to the FCS level. Per AL.com’s Matt Zenitz, that lucky program will be Western Illinois.

Per usual NCAA transfer rules, Whitlow would have to sit a year to play. However, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic altering the state of college football, Whitlow’s eligibility for next season remains unclear

A talent as big as Whitlow is obviously a huge get for Western Illinois who play in the Missouri Valley Conference. Last season, the Leathernecks struggled with a 1-11 record under second-year head coach Jared Elliot. The team also ranked 108th out of 124 FCS teams with only 1,303 total rushing yards on the year.

Going into next season, Western Illinois and the rest of the MVC are planning on having an eight-game schedule starting next spring.

As for Whitlow himself, the former Tiger came to The Plains as a late add to Gus Malzahn’s 2017 recruiting class. A three-star athlete out of Lafayette, Alabama, Whitlow was able to impress right away despite being the No. 527 player in his class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

After redshirting his first year on campus, Whitlow was able to take the starting running back job over after the departure of Kerryon Johnson.

Whitlow would go on to lead the Tigers in rushing as a RS freshman in 2018 as he totaled 787 yards and six rushing TDs on 150 carries (5.2 yards per carry.) Whitlow also added 15 receptions for 173 yards and two additional TDs as a receiver.

Going into his sophomore season, expectations for Whitlow were high and many expected him to be Auburn’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Johnson two years prior. However, injuries held Whitlow to just 11 games in 2019 and ball security issues (five fumbles in 2019) led to other backs like Shaun Shivers and D.J. Williams encroaching on his carries.

As a whole, Whitlow put up a very similar campaign to his RS freshman year with 156 carries for 763 yards and 10 total touchdowns.

Although Whitlow had led the Tigers in rushing over the past two seasons and was one of the team’s better players during that time, the writing was on the wall and Whitlow’s job security seemed well…less than secure.

As a result, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Whitlow elected to put his name in the NCAA transfer portal at the beginning of the year.

Now with Whitlow officially gone, Auburn can focus on the backs they have on the roster. Although the group is largely an unproven one, it is generally seen as one of the most talented and deep running back groups the Tigers have had in quite a while.

The team’s leading returning rusher would be sophomore D.J. Williams who rushed for 400 yards and two TDs as a true freshman last season. Other than Williams, Auburn will have 5-foot-7 junior Shaun Shivers, versatile sophomore Harold Joiner and former top-100 recruit MArk-Antony Richards who was a top-100 recruit in 2019.

Along with those four guys, perhaps the most intriguing option for Auburn would be that of true freshman Tank Bigsby. The No. 40 recruit in the nation and No. 4 running back in the class of 2020, Bigsby is expected to make an immediate impact on The Plains, especially with Whitlow now gone.

However, Whitlow isn’t the only Auburn running back to leave the program this offseason. Along with his transfer, veteran running back Malik Miller decided to leave the team (but stay at Auburn) back in July.