Auburn, Ala.--The competition for the starting quarterback job for Auburn took the entire preseason camp and then some before Coach Gus Malzahn announced on Thursday night that redshirt sophomore Sean White will be the starter when the Tigers take on Clemson in the season opener on Sept. 3.
Locked in a competition with senior juco transfer John Franklin and senior Jeremy Johnson, White is now expected to open the 2016 season in the same position he finished 2015 as the team's main man at quarterback.
Playing solidly before knee and ankle injuries left him less than full speed during the second half of the year, White completed 58 percent of his passes in 2015 for 1,166 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. Before injuring a knee at the end of the Arkansas game, White was completing 64 percent of his throws and had games of 255 yards against Kentucky and 254 yards against the Razorbacks. The rest of the way as a redshirt freshman White wasn't as mobile or as effective as either a passer or runner.
“It feels really good," White said after Thursday evening's practice. "I feel blessed to be in this position and I feel responsible to lead this team against Clemson. I’m happy that Coach put that responsibility on me and my teammates believe in me. I feel like they have a reason to believe in me. I think we’ll be ready to go come Saturday.”
With the decision out of the way Malzahn said the focus is now on getting the offense in sync as the Tigers get ready for a challenging stretch of games in September. That will be especially important with the wide receivers because of the amount of inexperience at the position for the Tigers.
Sean White is show in action during the A-Day spring game.
One of White's receivers, redshirt freshman Darius Slayton, said, “Sean was already a good thrower, I feel like he got even more accurate. I feel like he makes a lot of good throws. He’s very confident. He’s very verbal, he’s good at talking with us asking how we like balls thrown. I feel like he’s taken a big step in the leadership category.”
Asked what White has going for him at quarterback, Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, “Obviously experience. He’s gotten his feet wet and been there. He has had some disappointments playing, but he has also had some successes playing.
"I think he has proven to his teammates that he is tough as nails and that they can trust him on the field so that helps, but at the same time there’s a lot of room to grow.”
White, the MVP of the Under Armour All-American Game, redshirted in 2014. He made his college debut in game four last season vs. Mississippi State after Johnson struggled as the starter in the first three games. White hit 11-29 passes for 188 yards with one interception vs. the Bulldogs and added 29 rushing yards on 11 carries.
He completed 6-10 passes for 108 yards and rushed for 18 yards on four carries in his second game vs. San Jose State.
White was 17-27 in his first college road game, finishing with 255 passing yards vs. Kentucky.
He was injured in overtime of Auburn's loss at Arkansas. He completed 19-32 passes for 254 yards that day as his receivers dropped more than a half dozen easily catchable passes, which prevented the Tigers from have a great chance to win in regulation time.
He played with his knee problem at Ole Miss, completing 12-28 passes for 258 yards, but was held out of action the following game vs. Texas A&M as Johnson returned to the starting lineup. He also missed the Idaho and Alabama games. White hit 1-5 passes for one yard vs. Georgia and was 8-13 for 102 yards with two interceptions in the bowl victory vs. Memphis.
White was the first Auburn freshman quarterback to start an SEC game since Jeff Klein did it in 1999 vs. Tennessee.