Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Big News, Big Week For The Auburn Tigers

Big news from Jarrett Stidham and Kamryn Pettway leads into a big week for the Auburn Tigers as they open bowl practices.

Freshman defensive end Nick Coe (above) is redshirting this season.

Great Start For 2017

The commitment of big-time quarterback Jarrett Stidham and the planned return of running back Kamryn Pettway is a promising start for the Auburn Tigers heading into the 2017 football season. Stidham gives the offense another answer at the quarterback position to go along with Sean White, something that was missing this season late in the year when the Tigers struggled to move the football when White was injured.

Whether White's backup, John Franklin, could have been that guy we may never know, but there is no question that Stidham will enter the program with an immediate chance to compete for the starting job next season. With his experience playing as a true freshman for Baylor, and his skill set of a strong and accurate arm as well as good athleticism and speed, Stidham could allow this Auburn offense to build on what it started this season.

With Pettway back and Kerryon Johnson getting touches as well, the Tigers have a pair of backs who can make plays even without a running quarterback in the zone read scheme. The way that was done this season was by using the pass to keep the opposition honest. It didn’t take many throws to accomplish the feat, but White’s ability to make teams pay for stacking the line of scrimmage kept defenses honest and allowed Pettway to take over games.

Now with another true passer to go along with White the Tigers have two options to keep the offense running smoothly by being able to throw the football on any down at any time. If Auburn can build on that and become aggressive calling plays then the sky is the limit when you add in guys like Stanton Truitt, Kameron Martin and Malik Miller at running back, Chandler Cox at fullback and young wide receivers such as Ryan Davis, Darius Slayton, Kyle Davis, Nate Craig and Elijah Stove.

Important Eight Days

While Auburn won’t delve into the heavy part of the game planning for Oklahoma until the Tigers arrive in New Orleans on Dec. 27, the eight practices on campus will be very important for this team. First and most important for succession the Sugar Bowl is the health of White and Pettway, something that should be much improved over where both were three weeks ago. Getting them back closer to full speed by the time the team gets to the bowl site is important to allow the team to hit the ground running with the gameplan.

It’s also a great opportunity to build confidence for young players heading into next season. On offense Marquis McClain is a player who could really take some strides forward during bowl practice and heading into the spring. This is also a big time for young offensive linemen such as Prince Tega Wanogho Jr., Marquel Harrell, Kaleb Kim, Tyler Carr and others.

Defensively, two players in particular can benefit from the upcoming bowl practices, redshirting freshmen linemen Antwuan Jackson and Nick Coe. With Montravius Adams, Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain gone after this season, Jackson will be expected to step in and play a role for the Tigers alongside Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown and Andrew Williams in the middle.

The same is true of Coe at end.

A player the coaches and his teammates can’t say enough positive things about, Coe has all the physical tools to be an impact player for the Tigers early in his career. At 260 pounds Coe is a player that his high school Coach Owen George said was a sub 4.7 in the 40-yard dash prior to being slowed with an injury as a senior. Now full speed and with a fall of work under his belt, Coe could be the breakout performer for Auburn’s defense next season and this week will give him a head start.

All-Star Thoughts

Going into the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game I knew that Auburn was getting a pair of quality linebackers in K.J. Britt and Tadarian Moultry, but watching them line up with the best of the best from Alabama and Mississippi this week has me even more convinced that the two are going to be keys to the defense for years to come.

Britt is a leader and a big hitter, but Moultry has as much raw potential as any defensive player I have seen in a long time. Expected to get another bump in the rankings on Scout, Moultry’s physical skills could make him an elite defender for the Tigers sooner rather than later. At 225 pounds already and with almost no body fat, Moultry has the frame and room to grow that could take him to 240 pounds or more. With the speed he showed off the edge as a pass rusher and with quality depth at linebacker, Moultry could be a player to watch at the buck position down the line. If he’s able to slide into that role he could become a true impact player for the Tigers.

Another player who really impressed me was AU commitment Noah Igbinoghene (Ig-Bin-Ogg-A-Nee). Not the biggest guy, he’s a physical receiver who plays the game with a burst of energy. Combine that with really good hands and you have a player that should be an ideal fit for Auburn’s offense down the road.

Sugar Bowl Tickets, Hotel Packages

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