Asa Martin

Asa Martin says he's leaving Auburn.

AUBURN — A puzzling season for the 2017 Mr. Football in the state of Alabama will end with a transfer.

Running back Asa Martin announced via Twitter on Saturday that he intends to leave Auburn after just one year with the program. The way the coaching staff managed his redshirt may have had something to do with that decision.

"I would like to take the time out to thank Auburn University for giving myself, a young man from Courtland, Alabama, the opportunity of a lifetime," Martin wrote. "However, I have made the decision to transfer. I appreciate all the love and support."

Martin, a former four-star recruit ranked as the No. 6 player in Alabama and No. 9 running back in the country in the Class of 2018, came to the Plains with high expectations. He rushed 198 times for 2,228 yards, caught 20 passes for 399 yards and totaled 35 touchdowns as a senior at Austin High, earning Mr. Football and Class 6A Back of the Year honors in the process.

But Martin never became much of a factor in Auburn's running back rotation as a true freshman despite the size of the void created the departures of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. Redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow (143), junior Kam Martin (92), fellow true freshman Shaun Shivers (59) and even redshirt sophomore Malik Miller (17), recorded with more carries.

Asa Martin finished the regular season with 13 carries for 57 yards and two catches for 39 yards.

But, a lack of playing time is not uncommon for a true freshman. What was more concerning this season is the way the coaching staff managed Martin's redshirt.

An NCAA rule passed before the 2018 season stated that players could appear in up to four games and still take a redshirt year, thus preserving a year of eligibility.

Martin had recorded touches in only three games (Alabama State, LSU and Southern Mississippi) going into an Oct. 6 trip to Mississippi State, but he had gone onto the field in a fourth game two weeks earlier against Arkansas. Auburn committed a delay of game penalty and he never entered the field of play again, but it seems that still counted against his eligibility.

When Martin entered the game against the Bulldogs in Starkville, his redshirt was burned.

“No, he’s not (going to redshirt)," head coach Gus Malzahn said 10 days later. "He’ll have a chance to help us on special teams and situations with our running back.”

Martin didn't play in any of the Tigers' next four games before carrying 10 times for 44 yards late in a blowout win over Liberty on Nov. 17.

“Asa’s going to be a good back, man," Kam Martin said after that game against Liberty. "He’s just doing what he can do right now. Asa’s going to be special, man. He’s a great guy on and off the football field. He’s going to get better.”

It will not be at Auburn, though, which is a blow to the team's running back depth going into next season.

The Tigers are slated to return Whitlow, Kam Martin, Shivers and Miller, and will have Harold Joiner after he redshirted this season, but they but don't have any running backs committed in the Class of 2019.

Being able to sign one or two players this cycle — such as four-star West Palm Beach, Fla., athlete Mark-Antony Richards, who is on an official visit to campus this weekend — would provide a needed boost.

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