Why Jarquez Hunter is more than ready to take the reins as Auburn's new RB1
Last season, Hunter averaged more yards per carry than any Tigers RB with at least 100 touches in *more than 35 years*. Giddy up.
RB Jarquez Hunter and a horse (Twitter)
Jarquez Hunter is not your average college running back.
That much was obvious early in his Auburn career. Actually, it started before he even played a single snap for the Tigers — when a video of him dunking a basketball in cowboy boots at his high school gym went viral and when his older teammates were talking about his workouts with wide eyes and shaking heads at SEC Media Days.
“To have a young man like Jarquez Hunter that's confident in himself, that's bold, that work his tail off, (a) workaholic that wants to get better — it rubs off on that whole room,” running backs coach Cadillac Williams said last fall. “Guy's a workaholic. Guy's character is A1. Like, it don't get too much better than that man. Selfless. Team guy. Just ran a 35-yard touchdown, and he’s right back on kickoff (coverage).
“Just quiet, go about his business and works his tail off. That's just Jarquez.”
Hailing from Philadelphia, Miss. — a town of 7,118, located in the central part of the state — Hunter is “a country boy in every sense.”
He’s become famous on the Plains for wearing a cowboy hat to Tiger Walk. When coaches were wondering about his recovery from offseason surgery last summer, he sent a picture of himself weed-eating on the farm back home. And, just this past weekend, he tweeted the above photo of himself riding a horse.
Hunter wasn’t a highly touted running back prospect, signing with the Tigers during the transitional class of 2021 as the nation’s No. 706 overall prospect and the No. 43 running back, per the 247Sports Composite. But it didn’t take him long to outplay his recruiting ranking.
For the past two seasons, Hunter has built up his cult hero status while playing behind one of the most talented running backs to ever suit up at Auburn — Tank Bigsby, a former elite recruit who is now off to the NFL.
Now, under a new coaching staff, Hunter is set to make the transition from being the lightning to Bigsby’s thunder to being the next feature back for a program with a long history of them.
And the numbers say he’s more than ready to take on that responsibility.
“Every time I get my number called, I’m going to do my job,” Hunter said after rushing for 134 yards in the Iron Bowl to end the 2022 season. “It doesn’t matter if I’m first or second. I’m gonna do what I’ve gotta do.”
As a true freshman in 2021, Hunter averaged 6.66 yards per carry — although a large chunk of that production came during the first half of the season, which included big performances in blowout wins over Akron and Alabama State.
As a sophomore in 2022, Hunter proved his early success wasn’t a fluke. He was a consistent presence throughout the season, scoring seven touchdowns and recording three straight 100-yard outings to close the campaign.
What really set him apart was his big-play ability. His 6.49 yards per carry average was the highest for any Auburn running back who had at least 100 carries since Brent Fulwood in 1986 (8.33).
Now, the natural rebuttal to a running back’s massive per-carry numbers is his volume. Would he still be the same big-play weapon if he got the touches of a feature back? More carries, more hits, more chances for that average to go down.
After all, Bigsby was an elite rusher, yet he averaged just 4.93 yards per carry in 2021 and 5.42 in 2022. (And just is probably a bad word to use there — those are still impressive averages.)
But Hunter, again, is not your average running back.