Five Auburn football players enter transfer portal

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AUBURN — Five Auburn football players, including one veteran celebrated for a heroic Iron Bowl moment, have entered the transfer portal as of Tuesday afternoon, the Montgomery Advertiser can report.

Three of the five were players on the offensive side of the ball: senior running back Shaun Shivers, senior offensive lineman Tashawn Manning and sophomore receiver Elijah Canion. The program parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo after one year Monday, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Advertiser. Sophomore defensive back Ladarius Tennison and junior edge Caleb Johnson are the two defenders in the portal.

Shivers and Manning will both find a new school and will use their fifth year of eligibility provided by the NCAA in response to COVID-19.

Shivers, nicknamed "Worm," will be remembered at Auburn for his fearless play despite a 5-foot-7 frame, most famously demonstrated on his game-winning, helmet-shedding touchdown run in the 2019 Iron Bowl upset of No. 5 Alabama.

On a third-and-5 with Auburn trailing 45-40 in the fourth quarter, Shivers received a handoff from quarterback Bo Nix. Shivers nearly slipped as he turned the corner, but he recovered to bulldoze through Alabama defensive back Xavier McKinney en route to an 11-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-1 McKinney's helmet went flying off as Shivers trucked through him. It gave Auburn the lead with 8:08 left and proved to be the final scoring of the game, a 48-45 win.

Nine months later, Shivers said he was still hearing about it from fans.

"That’s been kind of crazy," he said. “Every time I’m on social media I always see a new post about the hit. Even when I go out sometimes, I go out to Walmart or get food, people always stop me like, 'How does it feel to be a legend here at Auburn?'"

Shivers was a steady backfield presence throughout his time at Auburn, especially in the first three years: He ran 70 times for 371 yards as a freshman, 55 times for 286 yards as a sophomore and 62 times for 276 yards last season. But his usage declined in the first year of the Bryan Harsin era; Shivers missed the second and third games of the season because of COVID-19 protocol, and by the time he returned, freshman Jarquez Hunter had taken over as Auburn's No. 2 running back.

Shivers was limited to 87 yards on 14 carries this season, bringing his Auburn career total to 1,020 yards and eight touchdowns. He scored his only career receiving touchdown in Auburn's season-opening win over Akron.

Manning came to Auburn as a defensive tackle prospect and worked his way up the depth chart on the offensive line through the 2018 and 2019 seasons, eventually earning the starting left guard job. He started every game of 2020, but under Harsin and new offensive line coach Will Friend, Brandon Council won the starting left guard spot before the season. Manning played in every game, taking snaps at left and right guard, and he was back in the starting 11 toward the end of the season with Council injured.

Manning played 350 snaps this season — not as much wear-and-tear as some teammates — but he had the team's highest run-blocking grade (69.7) according to Pro Football Focus. Only Keiondre Jones had a higher pass-blocking grade than Manning's 76.6.

Tennison was a four-star recruit who had potential to be Auburn's next hard-hitting box safety. He played in every game as a freshman and figured to be more involved this year, but he backed up Zion Puckett for most of the season. Being an instant-impact player was important to Tennison when former coach Gus Malzahn recruited him, those close to Tennison told the Advertiser. When Puckett was injured, Tennison started against Texas A&M and Mississippi State and had two strong performances, totaling 17 tackles. But the next week, he only played 14 snaps at South Carolina.

Canion made his debut as a freshman in Auburn's bowl game loss to Northwestern on Jan. 1. He had a solid outing, with 80 yards and a touchdown on three catches, leading to the belief he would see an increased role this season in Bobo's offense. At 6-foot-4, he was the tallest receiver on the roster (along with Ze'Vian Capers), but he only appeared in four games. He finished the season with four catches for 46 yards and did not have a reception in SEC play.

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Johnson was in Auburn's edge rotation early in the season, but he did not play the final five games. After he and fellow edge Romello Height were not with the team during Auburn's 31-20 win vs. Ole Miss, Harsin was asked Nov. 1 if he had an update on the two players.

"I really don't right now," Harsin said. "We'll see how this week goes and the next few weeks."

The reason for Johnson's absence was never disclosed, but he returned to the team for Auburn's trip to South Carolina on Nov. 20. His four tackles this season all came against Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Five Auburn football players enter transfer portal