Auburn will navigate the final month of the regular season with starting quarterback Bo Nix ... and not much else behind him. Coach Gus Malzahn confirmed to reporters on Wednesday that Tigers backup Joey Gatewood has entered the transfer portal and decided to move on from the program. "He's at the point now where he wants to be a starting quarterback, and he wants to start looking for schools where he can do that," Malzahn said.
News of Gatewood's departure was previously reported by Brandon Marcello of 247Sports. The report stated that Gatewood was not at practice on Tuesday and met with Malzahn in the afternoon. As of Tuesday evening, he was said to be mulling his future.
On Wednesday evening, Gatewood released a statement on his personal Twitter account in which he thanked Auburn for his time there while admitting that it's in his best interest to move forward.
"I would like to thank Auburn University, the Auburn family, coaching staff and my teammates," the statement read. "Throughout this process I've experienced highs and lows, trials and tribulations. I've been committed to Auburn since December 5, 2015 and never wavered. I take pride in how I handled every situation and am confident in myself and my God given ability. I wouldn't take back any part of my journey to this point. However, it is in the best interest of myself and my family to move forward. I wish my teammates the best moving forward this season.
This is a potentially important loss for the team's depth. Gatewood and Nix battled in the preseason before Nix, a freshman, was named the starter. However, Nix has been hot and cold this season. He's averaged fewer than six yards per passing attempt in five games and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes with four interceptions in losses to Florida and LSU.
After the LSU loss, Malzahn didn't sound as though he planned on making any changes at quarterback.
"Well, I mean, we're going to do what's best for our team, but right now a lot of the things -- Bo was put in some pretty tough situations on nine third-down-and-10-plus [at LSU], and there [were] some things that he would like to have back, but there were also some things that he did well," Malzahn said. "So he'll continue to improve. That's how we're looking at it."
Gatewood's role in the offense has come in short-yardage and red zone package formations. He's just 5-of-7 passing for 54 yards and two touchdowns with 29 rushes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Nix beat out Gatewood, Cord Sandberg and Malik Willis for the starting job in spring and over the summer. Willis opted to transfer out over the summer, joining Liberty.
With Gatewood gone, Sandberg would serve as Nix's backup with Malzahn potentially throwing in more Wildcat packages with running backs JaTarvious Whitlow and D.J. Williams.