Auburn football: 5 questions the Tigers must answer in 2020

Bo Nix of the Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Bo Nix of the Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Auburn football
Auburn football (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Auburn football faces some big questions entering the 2020 season. 

The arrival of Bo Nix last season brought plenty of fanfare for Auburn football. And the legend only grew in the season-opener when the young quarterback helped lead a come-from-behind victory over eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon. Aided by an elite defense, they were impressive at their best. However, Nix and Gus Malzahn’s Tigers went just 9-3 in the regular season and suffered an Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota to cap off the year.

While there is palpable optimism with Nix entering his true sophomore season, there is also trepidation. The quarterback’s inconsistency bit them in big games. Now, he’ll no longer have the elite defense — at least at the same level — to help him out and more pressure will be on him. Furthermore, they won’t be done any favors with another tough schedule.

In a year where there are a ton of moving pieces for the Tigers, there are questions to answer. These are the five biggest questions Auburn football must answer if they’re going to improve off of their nine-win campaign a year ago.

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5. Auburn football: Can Gus Malzahn find a solid replacement for Whitlow?

One of the most shocking moments of Auburn’s offseason came early in 2020 when running back JaTarvious Whitlow, the Tigers’ leading rusher last season, entered the transfer portal. Coming off of 156 carries for 763 yards and 10 touchdowns, Whitlow was initially expected to be the bell cow of the offense. Now they must figure out how to replace him.

The most likely candidate to take the bulk of the carries out of the Auburn backfield is D.J. Williams. The sophomore is a powerful runner who rushed for 400 yards and two scores last season on only 84 totes. Meanwhile, reinforcements are on the way as freshman Tank Bigby enters the fray, joining Williams and Shaun Shivers.

It should also be noted that Nix will likely garner more designed carries in the offense if the Tigers are in need of generating more of a rushing offense. As a freshman, the quarterback carried the ball 97 times for 313 yards and seven touchdowns, the latter of which was second on the team. While protecting the quarterback is critical, his tough running style will undoubtedly be utilized.

Having said all that, the rushing attack will be in focus. For all his talent, Nix is still young and needs a run game to help take some pressure off of his shoulders. With Whitlow gone and an offensive line with questions (more on that shortly) in their own right, how Williams and the committee fair could go a long way in determining Auburn’s ceiling.