The No. 7 Auburn Tigers lost their first game of the season to No. 10 Florida on Oct. 5, but they suffered a larger loss on Tuesday when head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters starting running back JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow will miss four to six weeks following a surgical knee procedure earlier in the day.
Malzahn confirmed that Whitlow suffered the injury late in the game against Florida.
The 6'0", 210-pound sophomore leads the Tigers in rushing with 544 yards and seven touchdowns on 110 carries.
Second to Whitlow is quarterback Bo Nix with 191 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries.
However, Malzahn expressed confidence in his other running backs moving forward.
"Obviously [Whitlow's] an impact player on offense," he said (h/t 247Sports). "The good thing for that is we do have a deep group at running back."
"D.J. Williams, this is a big week for him," Malzahn added (h/t The Athletic's Justin Ferguson). "We worked with Harold Joiner, and we've got our three other guys."
Williams has seen limited opportunities to this point in the season, notching just 32 yards on seven attempts as a true freshman. Auburn's other running backs are Kam Martin, Shaun Shivers and Malik Miller. Among those three, Martin has been the most productive with 174 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.
Whitlow has been the team's leading rusher in five of their six games, with Nix's 56 yards leading against Mississippi State.
On Sept. 30, following the 56-23 win over Mississippi State, Malzahn explained that he had purposefully "spread some carries out" in the game. Williams had all seven of his carries in that game, while Martin (eight) and Shivers (four) also saw the ball a decent amount behind Whitlow's team-most 10 rushing attempts.
Malzahn's reasoning then was "specifically, [so] Boobee's fresh for the second half of the season."
Now, with Whitlow out potentially for the remainder of the regular season, Malzahn has no other choice.