AUBURN, Ala. — Depending on who you ask, you could get a different answer.
For the guy who’s been bowled over by JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow, the redshirt freshman probably brings to mind more bruising running backs of the past. For the guy he just blew by, however, speed and shiftiness is what likely stands out.
Fortunately, Auburn fans are familiar with seeing both styles in the Tigers’ backfield — as most recently demonstrated by Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway in 2017.
They’ll recognize and approve of whichever method the Lafayette, Ala., native takes.
“It’s kind of like a Pettway and Kerryon mix,” H-back Chandler Cox said when describing Whitlow, who 6-foot and 216 pounds. “He’s physical, he’s fast, he can move. He’s got kind of the shifty, kind of like what Kerryon does, but is more physical, like Pettway.”
Whitlow suffered an ankle injury during fall camp, but emerged from the sideline during Auburn’s Peach Bowl practices in December. Teammates quickly took notice, and the didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Auburn players on both sides of the ball quickly saw that despite being a newcomer, Whitlow was ready to be a leader, both by example on the field as well as leading with his words.
“Just watching him in fall practice was really the eye-opener for all of us, just running, scoring a lot,” Cox said. “Especially in our mat drills that we have. We call them fist drills here. And he’s leading. He’s in my group for the mat drills and I’m usually the one yelling and screaming – that’s why my voice is always kind of gone – but he was the one yelling and screaming this year with me. I love that because it takes a second voice to help other guys keep going. He’s trying to be a leader, too, and that’s what I really like.”
Cox and other upperclassmen have encouraged Whitlow to stay on the path he appears to be traveling, especially as the Tigers search for a stating running back in the seasons to come.
And while the comparisons thus far have certainly been complimentary, are they legit?
Former Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway understands the traits Whitlow has that remind fans of himself and Johnson, but he offers a slightly different take.
“Whitlow is a different type of player,” Pettway said. “He’s very powerful and also swift. He plays with swag and attitude, too. He has a very bright future. I think he has his own style. He’s big and can be a bruising back, but he also has speed and moves.”
Pettway also commended Whitlow’s mindset, which is a hefty compliment for the SEC’s 2016 rushing leader (122.40 yards/game) to pay.
“Yeah, I think Boobee, his energy is infectious and everybody feels it,” Pettway said. “He gets the guys ready to go.”
That seems to be the consensus. Regardless of if he’s hitting hard or slipping through gaps, players including Auburn offensive guard Mike Horton like what they always see from Whitlow.
“I think he just runs hard,” Horton said. “Even toward the end of last season when he was coming back from injury, we had some of the young guys scrimmage. I think he just did great just not going down. He’s not going to go down. He’s going to make you tackle him, so I like Boobee.”
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