D.J. Williams

Auburn suffered much more than its first loss of the season against Florida before the bye week with the news that starting running back JaTarvious Whitlow injured his knee, underwent surgery and is expected to miss four to six weeks. 

While his absence leaves a big hole on the depth chart, it also provides an opportunity for the Tigers to explore other options at the position, something Gus Malzahn experimented with on a limited basis outside of veteran Kam Martin, who will likely be the first back on the field when the Tigers face a struggling Arkansas team that has lost its last three games, including one to the Mountain West Conference's San Jose State. 

Serving as a change-of-pace option, Martin has compiled the second-most carries on the season behind Whitlow at the running back position, rushing 34 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

During the bye week, Auburn coaches  basically opened up the competition at running back, giving "pretty much equal reps" to all of the backs and rotating between the ones and twos, according to Malzahn. While Martin will likely get the first look as the starter, Whitlow's injury opens the door for heralded true freshman D.J. Williams to break onto the scene. 

The Arkansas game is a good opportunity to test out Williams without much risk, as the Razorbacks  defense is the second worst in the SEC against the run, giving up 175 yards a game and nine total scores on the ground. 

Williams has seen limited chances so far this season as he has been hampered by a lingering injury suffered early in fall camp, rushing for only seven times for 32 yards, all of which came in the Tigers' win over Mississippi State. 

Williams responded well to being thrust into playing a larger role in bye-week practices, said Malzahn. 

"I think he is ready for the moment," he said. "He will be more involved this second half of the season, for sure.

"He has got natural instincts. Very rarely do you have to tell him to slow down or do this or that. He has got natural instincts when he has the ball in his hands."

The Tigers could also turn more toward speedster Shaun Shivers, who has rushed 27 times for 144 yards in five games, or Harold Joiner, who also picked up plenty of reps with the ones and twos during a bye-week scrimmage. 

The coaches could also look to give backup quarterback Joey Gatewood more opportunities to take some of the pressure of Nix, who needs to have a solid rebound game before heading into an environment in Baton Rouge that is sure to be as hostile as the one found in Gainesville. 

Regardless of who is toting the ball out of the backfield, the Tigers need to get better play out of their offensive line, which struggled at times getting much of a push against Florida's front seven. 

While Nix needs as much help as he can get from his surrounding cast on offense, he'll also need to continue getting the most out of the Auburn defense, which has played at a championship level so far this season. Auburn shouldn't have much trouble limiting the Razorbacks run game, but could be tested by a passing game that is averaging 262 yards a game.

Overall, the Tigers should cruise to an easy win on the road. 

Prediction: Auburn 48, Arkansas 13. 

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