In a move that should surprise no one, Auburn backup quarterback Malik Willis has reportedly decided to take his talents elsewhere after falling behind in the competition to take over the reins at starting quarterback from the departed Jarrett Stidham.
As first reported by 247Sports, Willis joined the ranks of transfer hopefuls when he entered the NCAA transfer portal last week. His departure from Auburn is not a sure thing, though, as he'll retain the ability to remove his name from the portal and stay with the Tigers if he doesn't find a landing spot and the coaches sign off on his return.
But that he's testing the waters isn't surprising. He ended spring practice battling for third string with Cord Sandberg on the quarterback depth chart. Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix clearly separated themselves in the eyes of head coach Gus Malzahn.
Willis was at his most exciting when turning upfield in the run game, but he never developed enough as a passer to even earn the descriptor "dual threat."
And Willis saw more meaningful action as a true freshman in 2017 than he did last season. In his first year, he rushed 16 times for 221 yards and a score in eight games compared 2018's 12 runs for a score and 88 yards, 52 of which came in the Tigers' blowout 63-14 win over Purdue in the Music City Bowl.
But his passing game in both seasons was virtually nonexistent — he combined for only 14 pass attempts, connecting on 11 for 69 yards and a score.
The most memorable play of his Auburn career came in his second appearance in 2017, when he came in late in the game against Mississippi State and blew past defenders on a 67-yard touchdown run, putting an exclamation point on the Tigers' 49-10 drubbing of the Bulldogs.
But, that's basically it.
Where Willis will land, or whether he will even leave, is still up in the air.
Entering the NCAA's transfer portal allows other coaches to contact the student-athlete, but just throwing your name out there doesn't guarantee you'll find a new home, as a report by The Athletic detailed last week, finding that fewer than half of the 450 Power 5 players who had entered the portal landed at other Power 5 schools.
If Willis were to leave, the odds are that he wouldn't find a spot at another Power 5 program, but have to settle for a FCS school.
Still, the move to leave The Plains seems like the right one for Willis, who could thrive at a lower-tiered school instead of watching himself slide further down the Auburn depth chart.