AUBURN, Ala. — Kerryon Johnson had one of the best quotes from Sugar Bowl media days last December when he talked about Woody Barrett, a freshman gearing up for Auburn football’s upcoming spring quarterback battle.
In New Orleans, Johnson said Barrett “believes in his mind that he could be the greatest quarterback to come through college.” A little more than two months later, back in Auburn, Johnson went a step further in talking about the confidence of his young teammate.
“Woody gets out there, and — it’s funny — Woody literally believes he will score every play,” the junior running back said. “To a point, that’s what you gotta love. That’s the same mentality I go in with every play. I love it. He’s got so much confidence that it gets scary sometimes.”
It’s becoming nearly impossible for Auburn coaches and players to talk about Barrett without using the word “confident” or “confidence.” While Barrett hasn’t taken a snap in a college game yet, his self-belief is synonymous with his game.
Through the first two weeks of spring practice, a confident Barrett has taken second-team reps at quarterback behind expected starter Jarrett Stidham.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn sees a difference in Barrett, who played on the scout team during the entire 2016 season for the Tigers.
“You can tell Woody’s more confident than he was and starting to settle in,” Malzahn said. “He’s got a real strong arm, too.”
That strong arm has caught the eye of Johnson, especially considering how much of an emphasis Auburn has placed on working with the running backs’ receiving skills this spring.
“I’m no quarterbacks coach, but I think he has one of the strongest arms in the group,” Johnson said. “He’s got a cannon. He believes in his arm. He believes he can make those (deep) type throws. He’s done that here and there. I think he’s got a good chance to be very good.”
The arrival of first-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey opened the door for Barrett to compete in a loaded quarterback battle that includes Stidham, recovering returning starter Sean White, true freshman Malik Willis and senior John Franklin III.
Through the first two weeks of practice, Lindsey liked what he saw out of Barrett and fellow freshman Willis.
“Woody is a talented guy, obviously a redshirt freshman,” Lindsey said. “He’s still trying to figure out his first spring. I’m excited about his progress. I’ve been really pleased with all of (the quarterbacks) so far, but for sure Malik and Woody, being younger guys who have been getting some reps. Excited about Woody’s progress.”
While Stidham is the odds-on favorite to win the job, teammates say Barrett is capable of giving him a stiff challenge.
“I think Woody is more mature (this spring),” sophomore wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers said. “He’s ready to come out and compete for the job.”
Barrett still has a ways to go, though, before he’s in a position to lead the Auburn offense. He’s still a relative newcomer to the system, and one that doesn’t have any prior college experience.
Through those deficiencies, Barrett has shown more than enough confidence to go for the eye-opening play on the practice field.
“It’s going to take him time to just slow down just like the rest of us and go through our keys and make sure we know what we’re doing,” Johnson said. “But one thing about him is that he’s going out there, he’s going to compete, and he’s going to try to make the big play every time.”