Auburn, Ala.--Called a “spicy player” and “confident” by his teammates as well as a guy who has a “mean streak” on the field, redshirt sophomore Sean White started six games last season for Auburn after beginning the season as a backup. On Saturday night he will be counted on to open the season as the man at quarterback for the Tigers as they take on No. 2 ranked Clemson.
Completing 64 percent of his passes in his first four games last year prior to suffering a knee injury during overtime at Arkansas, White was never the same a season ago after compounding his problem by hurting a foot in practice. Now healthy and with a year of experience under his belt, the guy known more for his passing ability will have a chance to build on what he did a season ago.
Former Auburn quarterback and current Auburn radio network analyst Stan White said it is important for the sophomore to use what he learned in game situations last fall to become a more effective QB this season.
“He even admitted he went into the year thinking he was going to be the backup, but when his time came I didn’t see any of his physical mannerisms that said the moment was too big for him,” Stan White said. “Even against Mississippi State, he made that one mistake down on the goal line, but other than that I thought he played pretty well.
Sean White is a redshirt sophomore.
“Even though he was somewhat thrust into that position as a redshirt freshman it didn’t seem like the moment was too big for him," White said. "Maybe he’s laying a foundation to grow from. I thought the Kentucky game was by far our best game and his best game. He really played well and had control, but unfortunately he got hurt.”
Like many of the most successful quarterbacks, including guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, Sean White isn’t the biggest or most athletic of players at the position with the strongest arm. That hasn’t kept him from being successful to this point and Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee said the drive is apparent when watching his quarterback on the field.
“I think it’s very important and I think at the end of the day it just goes back to he’s a very competitive kid,” Lashlee said. “You just look back at his journey coming through high school. He was always an undersized guy. People said he didn’t have a strong enough arm. He was the last guy invited to the Elite 11 and goes out there and wins it. He’s an alternate in the Under Armour game and wins the MVP.
“He has kind of always played with that chip on his shoulder," Lashlee pointed out. "He’s tough. I think he proved last year he is tough, probably to a fault. Sometimes you would like him to avoid some of these crazy hits he would take in the pocket. The big thing is he has got the toughness to stand in there and take it. I think your teammates respect that.”
White played through knee and ankle injuries against Ole Miss.
Toughness is just one of the attributes needed to be successful playing quarterback, but it may not be the most important. Confidence can be a fleeting thing when you play a position as wrought with peril as quarterback, but Stan White said when you’re in charge of the offense you better show confidence as soon as you step on the field because that’s what your team needs to see from the guy they are following.
“It’s incredible,” White said. “That could be the most important attribute that a quarterback carries onto the field because you’ve got to be able to look at 10 other guys in the huddle and they’ve got to know that you are confident in what you’re saying and you’re confident in the plan and confident in each play that you’re running.
“Also, you have to carry that confidence in yourself that no matter what happens, whether the defense wins this particular play or series, you have got to have a short memory to go out there and get after it next time. That is the biggest asset I think a quarterback carries. Obviously, if they’re playing at the SEC level they’ve shown they have the physical attributes to be able to play at a high level, but the mental aspect of it is a little bit of an unknown, especially in younger players. I go back to my time as a redshirt freshman. I was surrounded by a lot of veteran guys and they didn’t know how I was going to react. You have to exude that confidence without being arrogant. You’ve got have a load of confidence, but you also have to be humble because you’re going to make mistakes.”
Still Auburn’s all-time leader in career passing yards (8,016) and completions (659), Stan White had his share of mistakes along the way as a quarterback, but he notes that’s just part of playing the position. It’s how you respond to those mistakes that makes a difference at the position and it’s something he’s ready to see from Sean White beginning Saturday night.
“To me some of the best quarterbacks that have ever played the game have just a little recklessness about them, but they are able to control it,” the veteran announcer and former NFL player said. “You don’t want to be too dangerous with the ball because that will get you a place on the bench. Sometimes I had a little bit too much recklessness and sometimes I didn’t have enough. You’ve got to have that confidence in what you’re doing, whether it’s reading defenses or about your arm strength or your eyes, in everything you have to think you’re going to be able to make that play when the time comes.
“You’re not going to make it all the time, there’s no question about that. Bret Favre is one of the best in the world and sometimes we look at them and cock our head going ‘what were they thinking?' More times than not they are going to have success because they believe so much in what they are doing. Call it recklessness or call it belief. There is a fine line to that.
“You’ve got believe so much in what you’re doing that you can go out there and take a little bit more of a chance," White added. "If you get to the point where you are second-guessing yourself, and we’ve all been there, then all of the sudden you’re not playing to win and you’re playing just to survive. There’s a big difference there.”
Auburn fans and a national TV audience on ESPN will get a chance to see how AU's quarterback performs on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a game that will kick off the season for both teams at 8 p.m. CDT.