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Gus Malzahn: 'I feel for Jeff' Whitaker

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker is battling yet another ailment. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Whitaker has an issue with the nerves in his back, which caused him to the fifth-year senior to sit out last week's loss to Georgia.

After missing all of last season due to a knee injury, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn admitted it was tough to see one of the team's most valued leaders betrayed by his body once again.

"I feel for Jeff. He's one of our leaders, if not our overall team leader," the coach said. "He's got a lot of respect from his teammates offensively and defensively, and really his coaches, too. It was a tough blow. Hopefully we'll get him back but he's been through a lot as far as that's concerned since he's been here at Auburn."

Saturday is set to be the final home game of Whitaker's career on the Plains. But this season has been a forgettable one for the Georgia native. He has played in nine of the Tigers' 10 games (including two starts) this year, but has just five tackles, with one being for loss. For his career, he has appeared in 45 games, with 22 being starts.

Entering Saturday, Whitaker has collected 49 tackles (four for loss) and half a sack in his five years at Auburn. He also has one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.