HOOVER, Ala. — Outside of the Auburn football complex, it’s a foregone conclusion that Jarrett Stidham will start in Auburn’s Sept. 2 opener against Georgia Southern. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Tigers’ contingent at SEC Media Days.
Despite Stidham’s strong showing in the spring game, coach Gus Malzahn has yet to proclaim him to so much as the favorite to win the job over last season’s starter Sean White. To his credit, White looked impressive last season before going down to injury. However, considering he has struggled to stay on the field, the Tigers understandably pursued and landed Stidham last year over several other SEC programs.
Stidham’s spring performance was enough to elevate him in the eyes of many, as the former Baylor quarterback has quickly risen to become one of the preseason favorites to take home the 2017 Heisman Trophy. Quite the accomplishment considering he’s yet to take a single meaningful snap of football in more than a year.
While some oddsmakers have fallen for Stidham, Malzahn hasn’t done the same — at least not publicly. When asked Thursday to discuss his quarterbacks, Malzahn was eager to praise White and noted Auburn’s season could have been much different had the QB not gotten hurt late in the season.
“We were on a six-game win streak, and Sean White was leading our league in completion percentage and quarterback efficiency. If he hadn’t got hurt, it would be completely different, I believe,” Malzahn said. “The disappointment, we had a real chance. Key injuries late, we weren’t able to really seize the moment, that’s the disappointment that probably our players and our fans feel.”
The comments regarding White could certainly be construed as pure gamesmanship by Malzhan, but when Auburn’s All-American candidate Daniel Carlson was asked to share his thoughts on Stidham, he also found a way to shift the conversation back to White.
“(Stidham’s) a great quarterback … he’s been taken in by the team, but at the same time, we have Sean White still and when he’s healthy, he’s a great quarterback,” Carlson said. “I think we have two great quarterbacks, two great young men. I think they both have a real good chance to win that starting spot.”
Whichever player wins the job, as long as they both stay on the roster and the loser doesn’t transfer, Auburn’s season is far less likely to be derailed by an injury at the game’s most important position.
That fact wasn’t lost on Malzahn.
“He’s got a real chance. Jarrett Stidham is a very talented quarterback. The good thing, right now from a coach’s standpoint, we’ve got two real guys — we know that for sure,” Malzahn said. “That’s a great security blanket coming forward this season.”