Having stability at the quarterback position is one of the greatest comforts a college football coach can have entering an offseason. Not only does Auburn possess that stability but the way Gus Malzahn tells it, Jarrett Stidham has won over the Tiger locker room, too.
Coming off a season in which he threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns, against one of the nation’s toughest schedules no less, Malzahn fully believes the Tigers are Stidham’s team. Considering he had arrived via transfer and had spent less than a year in the program before taking his first snap as a Tiger in the opener against Georgia Southern, Stidham has come a long way in terms of leadership now that he’s been on campus for over a year.
The typically reserved Malzahn really went in on Stidham’s leadership during his recent appearance on Birmingham-based WJOX 94.5 FM radio program The Roundtable.
“I’m real proud of Jarrett last year. Coming in with our conference, in our league, with the schedule we played; he had new teammates, new coaches, he was trying to learn a new offense. Probably game four or five it started to click (for him). He started playing really good football.
“This is his team this year, you can just tell. Just the way we are in team meetings in the spring and everything that goes with it. He’s got a great feel of our entire team so we are glad that he’s leading us.”
This is what Malzahn said when asked how he can tell when a player commands the level of respect that Stidham currently has at Auburn.
“It’s just a sense. You’ve been around the team long for 30 minutes and an outsider could come in not knowing anything and they’d know he’s the leader,” Malzahn continued. “The special ones have it and you just said it, anytime you got a guy that’s a leader and he’s one of the best players, that combination usually goes a long way.”
During his radio appearance, Auburn’s coach also discussed the advantage of playing a team of Washington’s caliber in the season opener, as well as his respect for the program’s leader — Chris Petersen.
“Anytime you got a high profile game Week 1, I think it helps during the summer. The dog days of the summer, it just helps motivate,” he said. “Washington is a great team, they have a great coach… We’ve talked football a few times when I was at Tulsa way back and he’s one of the good guys. He’s a true professional and I have a lot of respect for him.
“They are one of the best teams in college football and we are going to play the toughest schedule again. Last year, we had two losses and if we would have won the SEC Championship Game we would have been in the College Football Playoff with two losses. Schedules just as tough this year, so it’s a man’s schedule and we’ll see what happens.”
Malzahn finished up by once again mentioning his request to see the annual Alabama and Georgia games be staggered on the Auburn schedule, as they have been in the past. This is the second time Malzahn has voiced this complaint in less than a week’s time.
“That needs to be done,” he said. “That’s a real interesting deal at the end of the year when you got them at home or on the road. In 2010 we had them split up when we won the National Championship so I’d prefer for it to be split up.”