Can Jarrett Stidham have a Cam Newton-like impact on Auburn's offense?
The expectations are high for Jarrett Stidham as he continues his college career at Auburn this spring.
So far, Stidham has been praised by coaches and teammates for his leadership abilities and command of the offense. With that said, it has yet to be determined what type of impact he will have this fall.
What are some realistic expectations that Auburn fans should have for Stidham moving forward?
Stidham was an absolute stud coming out of Stephenville, Texas, during the 2015 recruiting cycle. The former 4-star quarterback was considered the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country (behind Kyler Murray), and he was the No. 38 overall player — according to 247Sports.
During his junior and senior years, Stidham put up some eye-popping statistics. He threw 5,547 yards with 65 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions — completing 66 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 1,790 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Stidham held offers from pretty much every major program in the country, but he picked Baylor and former head coach Art Briles.
The marriage between Stidham and Baylor was short-lived. His freshman season was cut short due to an ankle injury, but his prospects looked bright. In nine games — including three starts — Stidham threw for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns — completing an impressive 68.8 percent of his passing in the process.
Stidham transferred not long after Baylor’s NCAA troubles began. Following a brief stop at McLennan Community College, he made a commitment to the Auburn Tigers and enrolled in January.
Stidham, 6-2, 210, isn’t an explosive runner, but he is effective when using his legs. In Gus Malzahn’s zone-read offense, Stidham should make a significant impact as a runner and passer.
He features impressive footwork that allows him to drive the football into tight windows with impressive delivery. Overall, what stands out most about Stidham’s game is his arm strength. He can make the necessary throws to all levels of the field, and you can expect accuracy as well.
Auburn’s passing offense was at its relative best last season when Sean White was taking snaps, but he didn’t have the ability to push the ball downfield consistently, which allowed defenses to stack the box. With Stidham, teams won’t be able to do that.
Auburn had just 17 pass plays of 30 yards or longer last season. Only four SEC teams had fewer. Only South Carolina had fewer than Auburn’s 2 completions for 50 or more yards.
Stidham has the necessary touch and arm strength to take the top off defenses, and that should open things up for RB Kamryn Pettway and the rest of the Auburn run game.
One area that Stidham will have to improve on is his ball security. With the pressure that Auburn’s offense can put on defenses with the hurry-up, it would be a crucial mistake for drives to be stalled by unnecessary turnovers.
There is an enormous amount of pressure on Stidham and Malzahn, but there is reason to believe — and necessary weapons — both will meet expectations come September.
Auburn hasn’t had a talent of Stidham’s caliber at the quarterback position since Cam Newton carved up SEC defenses in 2010. However, fans need to temper expectations early because Stidham hasn’t played in a live game since November of 2015.
This past season, Stidham decided to preserve his eligibility and as a result, he was only a scout team quarterback for a high school team. While that could cause some delay in his progress, expect him to get more comfortable as the offseason wears on.
He will have three years of eligibility remaining. If Auburn’s offense is as good as some think it will be, don’t be surprised to see him make a run at the Heisman in the next couple of years.