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Six starting RBs? Malzahn explains

Malzahn held his preseason press conference Tuesday.
Malzahn held his preseason press conference Tuesday. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn athletics)

AUBURN | Auburn has released its official depth chart for the 2019 opener, and frankly, it’s a little confusing.

If you read the depth chart it literally, the Tigers will field 19 starters on offense including six running backs, and 15 on defense including a 291-pound outside linebacker.

Gus Malzahn was asked specifically about the running backs during his Tuesday press conference.

“Well, here’s the positive with that: we’ve got a lot of confidence in all of them and they all could possibly play,” Malzahn said. “Boobee Whitlow will be the first guy that goes out, but we can possibly play them all. We’re impressed with all of them.”

The running back starters are listed as JaTarvious Whitlow or Kam Martin or Malik Miller or Shaun Shivers or D.J. Williams or Harold Joiner. Senior Marquel Harrell, a 309-pound starting left guard, felt a little left out.

“I think they missed some more because I’m supposed to be a starting running back as well,” Harrell joked. “All those guys are talented so I’m excited. What we have in the backfield, I’m excited to watch them play, excited to watch them run.”

Auburn used a total of 14 ‘ors’ on the depth chart. Spencer Nigh and Jay Jay Wilson are listed as co-starters with John Samuel Shenker and Harold Joiner as co-backups at tight end/H-back, and Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz as co-starters at one of the four wide receiver positions.

On defense, Big Kat Bryant and T.D. Moultry are listed as co-starters at Buck, Owen Pappoe and Zakoby McClain as co-starters at one linebacker position and K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten as co-starters at the other. Devan Barrett and Nehemiah Pritchett are listed as co-backups at one cornerback, and Javaris Davis and Jordy Peters as co-backups at nickel.

Nick Coe is listed at four different positions on defense including the starter at OLB, a position that wasn’t on last year’s depth chart. Coe, who started at Buck last season, is also listed as the backup at both defensive tackle positions and defensive end.

“Nick is going to move around. Nick is a starter,” Malzahn said. “With different personnel groupings they give us, he’ll move around. He gives us a lot of flexibility. He can play outside, he can play inside, he can play off the ball. He’s a very versatile player that gives our defense a lot of flexibility.”

Malzahn was asked why they listed a 291-pound defensive lineman at outside linebacker.

“After the game, it may make more sense,” he said.

Special teams wasn’t immune to the ors. Christian Tutt and Davis are listed as the co-starters at punt return.

“We kind of narrowed it down to those two,” Malzahn explained. “Both of them have earned it — and like I said last week, that was really the big question mark. You could see Javaris or Christian returning kicks in this first one. We've got confidence in both of them.”

A total of six true freshman made the depth chart including starting quarterback Bo Nix, Williams at running back, Derick Hall as the third-team defensive end, Pappoe at linebacker, Pritchett at cornerback and walk-on Patrick Markwalter as the backup punter.

No. 16 Auburn opens the season against No. 11 Oregon Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT on ABC.