Auburn, Ala.--One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2016 season for the Auburn Tigers was at quarterback. Just what would Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee do and did they have the guy to run the show effectively?
That question has been answered emphatically by sophomore Sean White.
Completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,511 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions, White leads the SEC and is eighth in the country in completion percentage and 12th in pass efficiency. While his overall numbers won’t wow you because of his number of pass attempts isn't high for eight games into the schedule, White’s play has impressed his coaches because of what he’s done not only throwing the football, but as a leader for the offense.
“He’s just an extremely tough competitor,” Lashlee said. “I’ve said it before, I know this is going to get old, but he plays with a chip on his shoulder. That’s just how it is. I mean everybody has always said he’s undersized, not strong enough arm, he’s not athletic enough, you name it. It goes back to being the last one selected to go out to the Elite 11 and he goes and wins it.
“An alternate in the Under Armour game then he wins the MVP. Coming in here, nobody ever really talked much about him in the quarterback competition then he wins the job. I think he’s one of those guys who loves to play the game. A lot of times certain guys when the light comes on they play their best. He gives us everything he has.
Sean White is a redshirt sophomore.
“The third down run was incredible (16 yard run on third and 13 against Ole Miss). I mean to stick his foot in the ground, hit north-south and get smoked on that. He took a lot shots, took more shots than he needed to. None bigger than the one on the wheel route to Stanton Truitt. That’s as good of a play you will see anybody make, hang in there with that toughness then pop right back up.”
Since the opener against Clemson when he completed just 10-21 passes, White has completed 103-144 (71.5 percent) with all eight touchdowns and the only interception coming on a dropped pass by Tony Stevens on the opening drive against Mississippi State.
Those are numbers that you can win with said Lashlee, but there is still plenty to improve on for the sophomore starting with the deep ball opportunities.
“He’s making good decisions with the football, whether to tuck it and run or who to throw it to, and he’s very decisive and confident,” Lashlee said. “The one thing we have to improve on is hitting those vertical shots. I think that’s very obvious at this point. He’s extremely efficient, but if we want to take that next step, we’re going to have to hit some of those big throws.”
Facing a tough Vanderbilt defense this weekend and with games still ahead against Georgia and Alabama on the road, Coach Gus Malzahn said his quarterback has to continue to progress if the Tigers want to keep moving up as an offense. Right now however, he’s doing what it takes to win and that’s the main goal.
“He is a tough guy,” Malzahn said. “The team had respect for him already because he is a tough guy, but now he is starting to become more of a run threat. You look at the zone read where they brought two off the edge and he put his hand down and ended up making a positive play out of a negative play situation.
“He is starting to do the little things that a good quarterback in this league does. His teammates and his coaches have respect for his toughness and that has been there all along.”
White and the Tigers will return to action with an 11 a.m. home game vs. Vandy, which will bring a 4-4 record to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.