8. QB Sean White
Why he’s here: White emerged from the three-ring quarterback circus in Auburn’s season-opening loss to Clemson as the full-time starter. After that game, he completed at least 66 percent of his passes in seven of the next eight games.
When offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee took over play-calling in Week 4, the Auburn offense started rolling behind White. Lashlee simplified the schemes and called plays around White’s strengths — short- and intermediate-range passes on early downs that opened things for Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.
For several weeks in the middle of the season, White led the SEC in completion percentage, yards per attempt and QB rating. He wasn’t the primary scoring threat on the roster, and his deep ball left much to be desired. But the Tigers still moved the ball virtually at will when he and Pettway were healthy.
“He’s been extremely efficient 20 yards and in,” Lashlee said in October. “I mean, pretty much deadly accurate, and not only efficient with the throws but the decision-making. … The one thing that we have to improve on is hitting those vertical shots. I think that’s very obvious at this point. He’s extremely efficient, but if we want to take that next step, we’re going to have to hit some of those big throws.”
Then the injury bug bit for the second time in two years. White injured his right shoulder against Ole Miss and sat out the first half of the Vanderbilt game. White returned in the second half and then started against Georgia before reinjuring his shoulder. He tried to play through the pain — without telling his coaches — and threw for 27 yards in a 13-7 loss that ended Auburn’s SEC hopes.
White missed the next two games, marking the second consecutive year he missed extended time because of injury. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said White should be healthy for the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. But when the season ends, the former SEC stat leader will have major competition for his starting job.
Sean White's final completion of the game was a pretty one to Tony Stevens. pic.twitter.com/WkfdeQ2Pqc
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) October 2, 2016
Great ball placement by Sean White to put it away from safety on Tony Stevens' first TD. Take it away, Jesse Palmer… pic.twitter.com/vhwIjww2oX
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 11, 2016
Season stats: 128-for-198 passing for 1,644 yards, 9 TDs and 3 INTs; 52 carries for 148 yards and 2 TDs
Next season: No matter what happens at the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, White will have to play the underdog role again in the spring. Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham is headed to the Plains, and he’ll be the favorite to win the quarterback job in 2017. Stidham brings a stronger arm and some more mobility to the Auburn offense.
However, the 6-foot White is known for his toughness and determination. He won’t go down in this quarterback battle against Stidham without a fight. After all, he was the quarterback this season when Auburn’s offense looked the best it had since the 2013 season.
Top 10 Auburn football players
No. 10: DE Marlon Davidson
No. 9: RB Kerryon Johnson
No. 8: QB Sean White