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Auburn RB Roc Thomas granted release, plans on transferring

Auburn running back Roc Thomas warms up for the program's spring game on April 9, 2016.
Auburn running back Roc Thomas warms up for the program's spring game on April 9, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn running back Roc Thomas’s jersey will look a little different next fall. The former Alabama Mr. Football was granted a release to transfer by coach Gus Malzahn on Tuesday.

"Roc Thomas has asked for his release from Auburn and I have granted his request. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward,” Malzahn said in a statement.

Rumors started to swirl about Thomas leaving the Plains back in December when he posted a cryptic Instagram post of him and former teammate Ricardo Louis captioned “…the end.”

Malzahn called the reports “completely false” during a press conference previewing the Birmingham Bowl.

Thomas was named Auburn’s starter last year prior to its season-opener against Louisville. The running back didn’t even make it through the first quarter before injuring his ankle and never made it back into rotation.

The 5-foot-11, 202-pounder finished the year with 43 carries for 261 yards with a touchdown. He did excel catching passes out of the backfield with 11 catches for 200 yards. His 18.18 yards per catch was the highest on the team for any player with 10 or more receptions.

“It was tough, coming in as the starter and then getting banged up and having some ups and downs through the season,” Thomas said during spring camp. “It's challenging.”

Thomas called the disappointing season a motivating factor as he battled Jovon Robinson for the starting job in spring camp.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee called the competition one of the best of the spring, but running backs coach Tim Horton indicated the redshirt sophomore wasn’t the frontrunner for the starting job at an Auburn alumni club event on May 2.

“Jovon Robinson really had a nice spring,” Horton said. “He kind of elevated himself going into fall camp. He’s in a good position.”

Thomas spent time at slot receiver during Auburn’s spring game — a spot Horton said Thomas also practiced at — but the opportunity to play a second position didn’t apparently interest the running back.

Coming out of Oxford High School, Thomas was a 5-star prospect. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a senior in high school with 32 touchdowns and one of the top-rated running backs in the class of 2014.

"He was the top running back on our guys' board,” Malzahn said at the time. “Our offense staff identified him early. They recruited him extremely hard. Once again a key to this class, he was very loyal to us. He could have gone anywhere and he chose to not go anywhere and stay with us. We really feel like he has the ability to come in immediately and make a huge impact."

Thomas is the second player in as many weeks to depart the program with defensive back Tim Irvin making a similar announcement on social media on May 24.