As the 2017 College Football season approaches, teams will be making decisions on all starting positions including major positions like Quarterback. The Auburn Tigers and Head Coach Gus Malzahn are one step closer to the start of their season by naming former Baylor Bear Jarrett Stidham as their starting Quarterback.
It’s not much of a surprise considering he was projected to be the starter going into spring training. As a true freshman, he played in ten games and started three for the Baylor Bears in 2015. He accounted for 75 completions (out of 109 passing attempts) for 1,265 yards and 12 passing touchdowns. Stidham (among many others) left the Baylor program when the sexual assault cases were circling the school and the entire sports program.
He went to McLennon Community College but didn’t play football last fall. This past spring, Stidham was named A-Day Spring Game MVP by passing for 16 completions (out of 20 attempts) for 267 yards. Among the other Quarterbacks he beat out was John Franklin III (now transferring to Florida Atlantic) and Sean White.
In 2010, a junior college transfer named Cam Newton came in and won the starting quarterback job. In that season, he accounted for 185 completions (out of 280 passing attempts) for 2,854 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 264 rushing attempts, 1,473 rushing yards, and 20 rushing touchdowns. Newton won the Heisman Trophy, helped Auburn win the 2011 BCS National Championship against the Oregon Ducks, and was selected 1st overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Since then, there has been a lot of preseason hype on each of the Quarterbacks neither have started a game for Auburn. Most of these quarterbacks were anointed prematurely. At best they are average and end up losing the starting job. The best Quarterback in-between Cam Newton and Stidham was Nick Marshall in 2013; he took his Auburn Tigers to the 2014 BCS National Championship. Unfortunately, they lost to Florida State. The Tigers benefitted more from future NFL stars like WR Sammie Coates and DE/OB Dee Ford than the playmaking ability of Marshall at Quarterback.
Stidham has favor because of his arm strength, tight accuracy, (a 5-star dual-threat Quarterback by Scout.com). He has the full support of his teammates, Coach Malzahn, and Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey. Stidham will hopefully make the Tigers’ offense more efficient passing than the previous season. Auburn was ranked 49th in the nation in points per game (31.2) but was 112th in the nation (14th – last in the SEC) in passing yards per game (169.5).
This season, many sports writers and analysts have put Stidham on the preseason Heisman contenders list. There is a difference between him and the other Quarterbacks after Cam Newton; he has experience as a starting Quarterback in College Football. Putting Stidham on the preseason Heisman contender list is still premature based on the history with Auburn Quarterbacks. However, It can be justified considering his time at Baylor. He will be competing with USC QB Sam Darnold, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Washington QB Jake Browning, and Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett for the Heisman hype and votes.
2017 will be tough for Stidham and the Auburn Tigers for multiple reasons. They will have to replace three of their top receivers from last season. WR Ryan Davis led the team in receiving with 194 yards and has accounted for one touchdown. Experience at the Wide Receiver and Tight End positions will be a big negative factor on offense, but they do return two great rushers in Kamryn Pettway (1,224 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Kerryon Johnson (895 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns). Overall, this is an area where Jarrett Stidham and Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey must be able to press upon when the season starts.
Another major factor that goes against the Auburn Tigers is their grueling schedule. Auburn’s 2nd game of the season will be at the reigning National Champions in the Clemson Tigers. Despite the theory that Clemson will be experiencing a rebuilding season after losing QB Deshaun Watson and other offensive stars, winning at Clemson will still be tough. Another roadblock is three consecutive road games. They travel to LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M. There’s a much-needed bye week in-between Arkansas and Texas A&M. Auburn can’t take the risk of thinking they will fully recover for the game against the Aggies. Right after that, they host the Georgia Bulldogs, which are predicted to win the SEC East this year. Finally, their last game of the season, they host their rivals in the Alabama Crimson Tide, who is favored to win the College Football Playoffs again this season.
This tough schedule will test all the coaches and players, especially Stidham whose charged with tough competition, unlike anything he has ever seen at Baylor in the Big 12 Conference.
Regardless of what experts think of his Heisman shot or how well he will do, Jarrett Stidham is the starting Quarterback, and he controls his destiny from this point forward. The Auburn Tigers will kick off their 2017 season at home against the Georgia Southern Eagles on September 2nd, televised by the SEC Network.