Auburn, Ala.--With the 2016 season for the Auburn Tigers now in the rearview mirror it’s time to look ahead and that means focusing on the most important position, quarterback. While it has always been the case, the last two seasons on the Plains have shown how important the position is to the success of a team and in particular a Gus Malzahn-coached team.
Enter Baylor transfer and five-star talent Jarrett Stidham.
A dynamic player, Stidham saw action as a true freshman for the Bears In 2015 he was the backup to Seth Russell, but was forced into action with Russell was injured. Before he was also injured late in the year he completed 68.8 percent of his passes (75-109) for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
One of the games he played was against Oklahoma, Auburn’s opponent in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night. Completing 16-27 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions, Stidham impressed Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops with his play back then and he predicts big things from him at Auburn.
“I really like him,” Stoops said. “I think he will fit in nicely with Coach (Gus) Malzahn's system. He is a dual threat, but he is more of a prototypical thrower of the football. I think he's a very mature kid. I was impressed with him playing as a freshman a year ago. I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of arm talent.
“I'm sure Coach will blend the offense," Stoops added. "You always mold to it what your players do and what they can't do so I think he will give them a little different dimension throwing the football, spreading the ball out. Sean (White) does that as well and some of their other guys so they will just play to his strengths, and I think he will give them a lot of flexibility to do a lot of things. He is just a very talented player.”
Jarrett Stidham practiced for three days with the Tigers in December.
Stidham’s addition should make the Tigers better equipped to handle injuries and issues at the quarterback position, things that have derailed the Auburn offense each of the last two seasons. Monday night Sean White broke a bone in his forearm against Oklahoma, the latest in a line of injuries for the redshirt sophomore who injured his shoulder vs. Ole Miss this year and hurt a knee in 2016 vs. Arkansas.
While he’s enjoyed success when healthy and the Auburn offense has responded under his guidance, White’s durability has been an issue and because of that bringing in Stidham looks to be a wise move for the Tigers.
Understanding that competition is the lifeblood of a program, White said he welcomes in Stidham because it makes everyone better. “It's college football and coaches are going to try to make the team better anyway they feel possible,” White said. “If that means bringing in another quarterback for competition to make everybody better, that's what they decide to do, then so be it. I just have to go out there and compete for my job.”
That attitude is something that White’s teammates say makes him a good guy to battle for the starting job, but with his injury the competition could continue into the summer with the recovery time 6-8 weeks for his forearm.
Stidham is going to have to come in and win the job said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee with White, John Franklin and Woody Barrett all expected to get into the mix. Running back Kerryon Johnson predicts that whatever happens it won't be easy to shake White.
If anything, this is what he wanted,” Johnson said of White’s response to Stidham coming in. “If anything, he wanted, 'Now, this is where it gets fun.' Whoever it is is whoever it is. I have no control over that. That's up to those two guys, but I think Sean is that type of guy when you give him a challenge. Heis going to want to do that much more just because he was presented with it.”