AUBURN, Ala. — Jarrett Stidham knows what the last two JUCO quarterbacks who became starters for Auburn football did on the field.
And while Stidham wants to lead Auburn to an SEC championship like them, he knows his playing style won’t match the ones from Cam Newton or Nick Marshall.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m not going to be Cam Newton or Nick Marshall and take it 75 to the house,” Stidham said. “I’m probably going to get caught from behind. It’s just not my game.”
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But after his first scrimmage in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Stidham said he is “comfortable” with the running Auburn asks from its quarterbacks.
Newton and Marshall are the outliers in Auburn’s offensive history under coach Gus Malzahn. Newton carried the ball 264 times — more than running back Kamryn Pettway did last season — in 2010. Marshall had at least 150 carries in back-to-back seasons.
But Auburn’s less mobile quarterbacks still had rushing responsibilities. In addition to the speedy John Franklin III’s 46 carries as a reserve, starter Sean White had 55 rushing attempts last season. White and Jeremy Johnson combined for 77 carries in 2015.
Stidham recorded 24 carries for 44 yards in his three starts at Baylor in 2015. He rushed for one touchdown, a short read-option keeper against Kansas State.
But Stidham has experience carrying the ball at a higher workload. The former 5-star dual-threat quarterback prospect rushed for 969 yards and 15 touchdowns on 122 carries as a senior in high school.
“He’s a dual-threat guy,” Malzahn said in December. “He can throw the ball, he can run when he has to. He can extend plays, and I think that’s a big thing in our league, because a lot of times things are going to break down. And a guy that can extend plays, make good decisions, that’s a real positive.”
Stidham’s ability to run will be important in new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey’s scheme if he wins the starting quarterback job in 2017.
Last season at Arizona State, Lindsey’s starting quarterback Manny Wilkins averaged 12.8 rushing attempts per game. Wilkins finished the year with 5 rushing touchdowns.
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A lot of rushing opportunities for Lindsey’s quarterbacks will come in his run-pass option (RPO) game. On this type of play, a staple of Lindsey’s Arizona State offense, the quarterback makes the decision to hand the ball off on a zone run, throw the ball to an open receiver, or take the read-option keeper.
Stidham has plenty of experience with RPOs during his time in Texas.
“Some of the RPO stuff that we’re doing right now is just really comfortable,” Stidham said. “I felt really comfortable with it because at Baylor most of the offense was RPO. I think it’s going to be good for us and add another element to our offense.”
If Stidham wins the starting job, he undoubtedly will be asked to carry the ball on occasion for the Tigers. While he’s a pass-first quarterback at heart, the Texan transfer is ready to show that he can be a weapon with his legs in addition to his strong right arm.
“I like to run around a little bit, keep the defense honest,” Stidham said. “And I think we’ll have some of it.”