Jarrett Stidham Plays Starring Role in Auburn Debut at Tigers Spring Game

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2017

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham makes a throw in the first half of Auburn's NCAA college football spring game on Saturday, April 8, 2017 in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Todd Van Emst)
Todd J. Van Emst/Associated Press

The Blue team earned a 37-13 victory over the White team Saturday in the Auburn Tigers' annual spring game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Jarrett Stidham was 16-of-20 through the air for 267 yards to lead the Blue team. Stidham also had a rushing touchdown after recovering a fumble by Kam Martin in the second quarter. SEC Network shared a replay of the score:

SiriusXM's Barrett Sallee distilled the general feeling of optimism Stidham's strong showing helped generate:

Sophomore wideout Nate Craig-Myers was one of Stidham's favored targets. Auburn Football shared a replay of Craig-Myers' catch along the sideline, which was part of his five-reception, 154-yard day:

The War Eagle Reader's Jerry Hinnen liked what he saw from Craig-Myers on Saturday:

Most of the attention focused on Auburn's new-look offense.

In January, the Tigers hired Chip Lindsey to replace Rhett Lashlee as their offensive coordinator.

The Arizona State Sun Devils ranked 56th in S&P+ offensive rating in 2016 under his watch, per Football Outsiders, despite injuries that forced them to cycle through three different quarterbacks. Lindsey helped the Southern Miss Golden Eagles go from 109th in S&P+ offensive rating in 2014 to 39th in 2015.

Auburn fans will hope Lindsey can turn around a passing game that averaged 169.5 yards per game in 2016, which was 112th in FBS.

In addition, the Tigers added Stidham, who transferred from Baylor after throwing for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games as a freshman for the Bears in 2015. Stidham will provide serious competition to returning starter Sean White.

Lindsey said Saturday's spring game would present different challenges for his quarterbacks than what they've seen in spring practice, per ESPN.com's Greg Ostendorf:

I think the biggest thing for the quarterbacks, from my standpoint, will be playing in front of a crowd and going through the pregame routine of the timing and everything that goes on. There will be a little more juice about them playing in front of a crowd, but at the end of the day, we've got to really try to focus on the things that we've already done and see who can execute our base plays that we've been running, who leads our team and who affects the other 10 guys the best. I think that's what really what I'm looking for. 

White was unable to make an impression on Lindsey and the Auburn coaching staff. While he dressed for the game, White didn't play as he continues to recover from the broken arm he suffered in the Tigers' Sugar Bowl defeat to Oklahoma.

Stidham, on the other hand, did little to discourage the notion he'll be the starter when Auburn opens the 2017 campaign Sept. 2 against Georgia Southern.

SB Nation's College and Magnolia and the Opelika-Auburn News' Josh Vitale argued Stidham's ability to complete deeper throws sets him apart from White:

Auburn Undercover's Brandon Marcello and CampusInsiders.com's Brian Stultz think the quarterback battle is already over:

Very little is revealed about a team during its spring game, especially when the starting unit is matched against the second team.

With that said, Stidham's big day didn't come from nowhere. He was the No. 3 quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, per Scout, and he played well when an injury to Seth Russell thrust him into the starting job.

Stidham is a talented passer, and he should make an immediate impact on the Tigers offense.

Auburn lost Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams from last year's team, but the defense returns enough starters that it should again be one of the best in FBS.

The Tigers have road games against Clemson, LSU and Texas A&M as well as the Iron Bowl at the end of the year. Competing for an SEC title won't be easy for Auburn, but a 10-win season is more than achievable based on a brief look at the passing game with Stidham under center.

 

Postgame Reaction

After the game, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn declined to name a starting quarterback, telling reporters he wants White to get healthy again before he makes a final decision, per AL.com's Wesley Sinor.

Stidham discussed what he thinks will help set him apart in the QB battle.

"I think it's just hard work every day," he said, per Sallee. "Going out and watching extra film, doing extra in the weight room. There are so many intangibles that go into being the guy, and I'm gonna take it day to day and get better."

In 2016, the Tigers ranked 120th in passing attempts (289) compared to seventh in rushing attempts (645). Fans can expect more balance from the Auburn offense in 2017.

Malzahn told reporters Lindsey is aiming for closer to a 50-50 split between the running and passing games and that the new offensive coordinator was proactive about having receivers run routes deeper down the field, according to Vitale.