Fans, coaches and players alike expected to see Tank Bigsby lead the running back room of the Auburn Tigers in 2021, but through two games Jarquez Hunter has shown that he deserves his name out there, too.
The true freshman from Philadelphia, Mississippi leads the Tigers in rushing yards (257), yards per attempt (15.1), and is tied with Bigsby for rushing touchdowns. Yes, these gaudy numbers have been against Akron and Alabama State, but they are still impressive.
The former four-star recruit set the program record for longest rush on Saturday against Alabama State, taking a standard run up the middle 94 yards for a touchdown. The previous record was held by Ralph O’Gwynne since 1936, who ran for a 92-yard touchdown against Loyola.
“He had the longest run in (Auburn) history,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “I was a little surprised — there’s been some really good players at the tailback position that have come out of this program.”
Hunter was able to flash his speed on the run when he ran 86 yards in under 10 seconds after breaking through the offensive line. Hunter was rewarded with the game ball after the game.
“That was a very great accomplishment,” Harsin said, “I’m very proud of him, too. Jarquez is humble, he works every single day, he focuses on trying to be the best that he can every single day.”
Over the summer, Hunter started to garner attention from his teammates and coaches for his work ethic and mindset.
“It really started in the summer for him,” Nick Brahms said. “Whenever we were running stadiums, he would finish his stadiums. We had 17 of them one time I remember, and he kept going. He got like 23 or 24.”
Hunter, who signed with Auburn this February, came into his first offseason with the team ready to work.
“We’re all done (with stadiums),” Brahms said. “Kind of sitting down looking at him and we’re like, ‘Dang, he hasn’t finished the stadiums yet? What is he doing, you know?’ We thought he was lagging behind, but in reality he was getting more reps, and coach made sure to tell us that.”
Brahms also commented about Hunter’s approach to the game.
“It’s really just his mindset,” Brahms said. “It’s really uncommon for a freshman to think like he does. His work ethic is amazing, and you don’t see that from a lot with freshmen.”
During SEC media days, linebacker Owen Pappoe told a story of Hunter squatting 600 pounds over the summer. When asked about the craziest thing he had seen Hunter do, Bigsby called upon the same story.
“It was ridiculous,” Bigsby said. “When we started out, it was crazy when he did that. When he came in, he just squatted it. It was wild. That was the craziest thing I saw (from him).”
It’s not just his teammates on the offensive side of the ball who are complimenting the freshman tailback; linebacker and team captain Chandler Wooten also spoke highly of Hunter.
“(He’s) got a bright future,” Wooten said. “Obviously, you see the skill set on the field, but just his mindset — come to work every day, same guy every day, consistent. The list goes on and on. He's going to continue to do great things.”