While JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow is the clear-cut starter at running back and senior Kam Martin a sure-thing to pick up his fair share of carries, sophomore Shaun Shivers seems poised to see his role in the offense increase, perhaps significantly.
Shivers even reminds first-year running backs coach Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of a back he is very familiar with — himself.
"I just know, from a standpoint of the guy’s mentality and his work ethic and his goal, it’s Shaun Shivers," said Williams. "I’m telling you, this guy lights up a room and it’s contagious. He is great, not only for my room, but for Auburn. We are blessed to have a guy like himself."
It's Shivers mentality and work ethic that could result in more reps and possibly working his way up the depth chart.
Well, that and the straight-line speed that was on display when he competed on Auburn's track-and-field team this spring, contributing a season-best 100-meter time of 10.44 seconds at the War Eagle Invitational.
Unlike some track-and-field sprinters, Shivers' speed translates well to the football field. He finished third on the team in rushing last season, carrying the ball 70 times for 371 yards and three touchdowns
"One thing I know is you can’t coach speed and he has a lot of it," said Williams. "I am looking forward to seeing him in some open fields running away from guys.”
It's not just his speed and talent that adds value to the Auburn running back room, though.
"He is really great for my room," said Williams. "I mean, a great young man, a guy who always comes with a smile on his face, a guy who’s always energetic, hard worker. If he’s had a bad day since I’ve been here, I couldn’t tell. He has been so great, not only for my role, but for the team because he is a guy who goes 110 percent every day. He’s a guy who’s locked in so I am excited to see what he brings."
When working with his running backs, Williams said he focuses on the getting them to do the little things better — techniques and fundamentals.
"I’m a firm believer that your habits are what you become, so always practicing good habits and giving your max effort," he said.
Williams is also looking for more consistency, especially from Whitlow, who is looking to improve on a 2018 season where he led the team with 787 yards and six touchdowns on 150 carries while adding another 173 yards and two scores on 15 receptions.
"At times, Boobee is up and down," he said. "He might have a play here, might have a play there—just him being more consistent and I can honestly just say, through spring and through fall camp, he has been a consistent guy. He’s striving and getting better each and every day.
"I know one thing that I love about Boobee is that he plays the game with physicality and he’s a confident guy and he is a guy that works hard at his craft."
Who best protects the ball might be the most important factor in how the carries are divvied up, though.
"We carry the hopes and dreams of the team when we carry that football," said he said. "Protecting that football is our number one job and I’ll let them guys know, ‘You fumble, you cannot play here.’
"Poor technique, poor fundamentals, that’s something that myself and coach (Gus) Malzahn are just not going to put up with."
Auburn could once credibly claim to be RBU, with the likes of Bo Jackson, Brent Fullwood, James Brooks, Stephen Davis, Rudi Johnson and Ronnie Brown , as well as Williams, running over their competition on The Plains.
But some of the shine of the running back legacy rubbed off last season, when the Tigers failed to field a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2008.
Could Auburn return to the glory days now that Cadillac's back on The Plains?
"As we know, Auburn has had great running backs come through here," said Williams, who rushed for 3,831 yards and 45 scores during his four years at Auburn from 2001-2004. "Those things got to be played out on the field but, you know, those guys are doing a heck of a job and had a good camp but we’ve got to see what happens on the field before we can start speaking that highly."
Williams will get the first look at his group of running backs on Aug. 31 when the Tigers battle Oregon in the season-opener for both teams.