Film Room: What Auburn football is getting in USF RB transfer Brian Battie
The Tigers wanted a back out of the portal, and they landed one of college football's most explosive — and fun to watch — playmakers.
When Auburn football’s new coaching staff started to recruit the transfer portal, the top priorities were pretty obvious.
The Tigers needed instant impact players along their thin and inexperienced offensive line, and they’ve gotten three potential starters from the Group of Five level in the last few weeks (Dillon Wade, Gunner Britton and Avery Jones).
They also needed to reload on the defensive line and their edge rushers after the talent exodus to graduation and the NFL. There’s room for more, but Auburn already has gotten Lawrence Johnson, Mosiah Nasili-Kite and Elijah McAllister from the portal.
There was also room for several non-linemen to help the roster right away. Auburn has a dynamic tight end in Rivaldo Fairweather, a former blue-chip SEC linebacker in DeMario Tolan and a massive receiver with experience in Nick Mardner. There’s also been a lot of chatter about potentially adding a quarterback this offseason.
The running back room was an interesting case study, though, for Auburn’s transfer strategy. Tank Bigsby was off to the NFL after a strong three seasons on the Plains, but Auburn had a go-to back returning in Jarquez Hunter. There was also Damari Alston, who saw playing time as a true freshman, along with the much talked-about true freshman arrival of Jeremiah Cobb.
But Hugh Freeze, Philip Montgomery and Cadillac Williams made it clear that Auburn wanted another running back in its room. And, earlier this week, the Tigers not only got a transfer they wanted — they landed one of the most intriguing running backs in all of college football from the last couple of seasons.
Enter Brian Battie, who played the last three seasons at South Florida. Battie is unlike anything Auburn has in its running back room in several ways, and the most obvious one is his size — he stands at just 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds.
As one might expect, an FBS player thriving at that size means he has elite speed. Battie showcased that as a sophomore in 2021, becoming the only player in the subdivision to return three kickoffs for touchdowns and earning consensus All-American honors.
In 2021, he had two 100-yard kickoff returns in the same game against Houston. He also had returns of 84, 53 and 49 yards throughout the season, making him the nation’s No. 6 player in kick return average (32.50). In 2022, he didn’t house any kicks, but he had three different returns of at least 40 yards.
Auburn hasn’t had a kickoff return for a touchdown since Noah Igbinoghene in 2019. And while both Hunter and Nehemiah Pritchett have posted good return averages in the last couple of seasons, their value to their respective sides of the ball may make it easier for Auburn to plug in a former All-American there.
But, last season, Battie used his top-tier jets more on offense. South Florida went a rough 1-11, including an 0-8 mark in the American, but that wasn’t due to any lack of production from Auburn’s newest running back.
He was one of the best big-play weapons in all of college football. Let’s dive deeper into his numbers and his style of play in this special edition of the Film Room.
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