AUBURN, Ala. — When Jarrett Stidham spoke to the media for the first time this spring, he said he had plenty of weaknesses he wanted to work on.
The former Baylor quarterback made it difficult to identify those flaws during his first official outing on the Plains. Despite not having played in front of fans for well over a year, Stidham wasted no time at all stepping into the spotlight.
The 6-foot-2 quarterback tossed a 50-yard pass to Nate Craig-Myers on his second play of the day. In just one half, Stidham completed 16 of his 20 attempts, passing for 267 total yards and adding a 1-yard touchdown run.
— Scott Griffin (@griffsz) April 8, 2017
“I thought he managed the offense well,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “I thought that he protected the football, that’s really where it starts. It was good for him to get out there in front of a crowd. He hasn’t been in front of a crowd playing football in a long time, so I think overall it was good for him and it looked like the receivers made some plays, too.”
Stidham’s play answered questions that have been posed since he joined the Tigers as an early enrollee in January. Instead of caving under pressure or letting expectations overwhelm him, Stidham solidified his place as the front-runner in Auburn’s quarterback competition.
“That’s pretty much what we’ve seen all spring,” junior running back Kerryon Johnson said. “Jarrett is a guy that when he first got here obviously everyone was skeptical — is he really that good? Is he this and that? I think he is. He really has potential, he’s a smart dude. He knows the offense. He wants to run it well, he likes to lead. Obviously he’s got a very good arm.”
With new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey commanding Auburn’s offense, the first-team Tigers attempted over 30 passing plays — a total that surpassed its rushing attempts.
And with Stidham leading the way, Malzahn’s team had success through the air. Stidham’s completions included four passes that moved the Tigers more than 30 yards downfield.
“The coverage that they gave us, that was just where the ball needed to go,” Stidham said. “Darius (Slayton) and Nate (Craig-Myers), they both did really good jobs today of stepping up and making some plays. That’s what we’ve got to have if we want to be successful. Those guys on the outside, getting up and going to get the ball and making plays on the field.”
It helped that Stidham, for the most part, was placing the ball in the right spots. He completed his first 12 of 13 attempts before overthrowing a pass to senior receiver Jason Smith, who looked to be headed for the end zone.
Stidham also showed an ability to gain yardage on the ground when needed. He finished the day with 17 rushing yards on 5 attempts, which included a touchdown run.
After the spring game, Malzahn said the plan is still for Stidham, Sean White and Auburn’s other quarterbacks to compete in fall camp. Even following his successful spring, Stidham was already thinking about his next steps.
“After Tuesday, I plan to sit down and go back through all the film throughout the spring from Day 1 to Day 15, and see what I did good, what I did bad, what I need to get better on,” Stidham said. “I think that’s the first step to really improving as a player. Throughout the summer, which is going to be crucial for us, just getting in there and doing some lonely work by myself and throwing with those receivers and making sure I know the protections of the offensive line, make sure we’re on the same page.
“I think once fall camp comes around, we’ll run smooth.”
The newcomer also has an idea of how to keep progressing towards becoming the Tigers’ starter this fall.
“I think it’s just hard work every day, doing extra, going up, watching extra film, doing extra in the weight room,” Stidham said. “Just being a good leader. There’s so many intangibles that go into being the guy. I’m just going to take it day to day and just get better.”