Tank Bigsby fuels Auburn football's running game, but what about the rest of the backs?

Josh Vitale
Montgomery Advertiser

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a seven-part series breaking down Auburn football’s 2021 roster.

Somebody told Mike Bobo once that, as an offense, “you’ve got to let them know you’re at the ballpark.”

“There’s not a better way to do that,” Auburn’s offensive coordinator continued, “than to get under center and run power.”

That’s what the Tigers are going to do now that he’s calling to plays. Bobo and coach Bryan Harsin both believe in being multiple on offense, and part of that is having a physical, downhill rushing attack the team can lean on.

Here’s what we know and don’t know about the running backs who will be leading that charge:

The lineup

Shaun Shivers (Sr.), Tank Bigsby (So.), Jarquez Hunter (Fr.), Jordon Ingram (Fr.)

What we know

What we know is that Bigsby and Shivers have the potential to become a dynamic 1-2 punch. Maybe one of the best in the SEC.

TANK BIGSBY:Star Auburn running back not shying away from high expectations

Bigsby for obvious reasons. He rushed for more yards as a freshman last season (834) than Bo Jackson did in 1982. That total ranked fifth in the SEC and second among freshmen nationally. And he’s not resting on his laurels – coaches agree that he’s one of the team’s hardest-working players on and off the field.

“Every day, he's Facetiming, he's wanting to know about certain run schemes, about protection. He's wanting to know about plays that we have in and how he can get better,” Bobo said. “The great ones have it in them. They always want to get better and they always push themselves. Tank has that in him.”

The player Auburn’s new offense may benefit most, though, is Shivers. The 5-foot-7 senior has been relegated to a part-time and sometimes even gadget role throughout his career, averaging fewer than six carries and 30 yards per game over the past two seasons. But despite his size, a physical, downhill rushing attack is what he’s most comfortable playing in.

SHAUN SHIVERS:The senior Auburn running back is fueled by what people say he can't do

“I just think this is the best offense for me, because I have a chance to show what I can really do – just get downhill,” Shivers said. “That's something I came from before when I was in high school.”

What we don’t know

What we don’t know is which running backs will step behind Bigsby and Shivers. The Tigers would love to be able to lean on that duo for the whole season, but they can’t bank on that – both players missed time with injuries last season.

JORDON INGRAM:Auburn football bolsters running back depth with Central Michigan transfer

Depth became an even bigger question when senior Devan Barrett entered the transfer portal on July 2. The former four-star recruit relearned the position this spring after spending the last three seasons playing defensive back and was expected to compete for a role in the rotation.

With him gone, the only other two scholarship running backs on the roster, Hunter and Ingram, are freshmen. Ingram, a three-star recruit in the 2020 class, technically transferred in from Central Michigan, but the Mobile native never suited up for the Chippewas.

Breakout candidate

Hunter. Running backs coach Cadillac Williams seems particularly excited about coaching him. The three-star recruit was a late find – Auburn didn’t offer until January – but may end up being a steal after averaging 223 carries, 1,920 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns over his final three seasons at Neshoba Central High School in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was named Class 5A Mr. Football in November.

JARQUEZ HUNTER:Why the Tigers are lucky to have found the freshman running back

They said it

“Man, we're going to run the football. We're gonna come off the ball flying. These backs are going to get downhill. We're going to take our shots and have our opportunities, but again, we want to be a physical, downhill running team.” — Cadillac Williams

Josh Vitale was the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale.