AUBURN, Ala. — The giant spotlight on the Auburn football program’s quarterback situation has undoubtedly shined the brightest on Jarrett Stidham in recent weeks. But another signal-caller who hasn’t taken a snap yet for Auburn created some buzz of his own.
Auburn quarterback Woody Barrett, who sat out the 2016 season while taking a redshirt, took full advantage of extra practice time as the Tigers prepared for Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl over the last month.
“Woody did good things,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “So we let our young guys play. Woody took predominantly all of those reps, and that’s almost like an extra spring ball for those guys.”
Barrett will be a part of what head coach Gus Malzahn described as an open quarterback competition in the offseason with Stidham, returning starter Sean White, John Franklin III and several others.
The Florida native, who hasn’t been made available to the media yet in his young Auburn career, isn’t expected to win the starting job over his more experienced teammates in 2017. But he’s a wild card for a move up the depth chart with more time in the system.
“Woody’s still adjusting to the college game, just like all freshman are,” running back Kerryon Johnson said.
Barrett was behind the rest of the pack when it came to making that adjustment in 2016. Academic issues caused him to enroll late, and he picked up an ankle injury that limited his development opportunities in the fall.
“You got to keep in mind, he got here at the very first of fall camp,” Malzahn said in November. “He wasn’t here in the summer. Then he had an ankle injury that held him out for about three weeks to a month. He’s going to be a real good player for us.”
In addition to taking plenty of important reps before Auburn left for New Orleans, Barrett mimicked Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in on-site Sugar Bowl practices.
Barrett, who signed with Auburn in 2016 as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the country, made quite an impression on his teammates with his raw arm strength and athleticism.
“He has a lot of natural talent,” Johnson said. “He has a cannon. He’s shifty for him to be however much he weighs. He’s a stocky guy. One time in practice he made a bad read and threw a field comeback, and the ball got there. … I think he can utilize it once he adjusts to the college game.”
Lashlee highlighted the importance of Barrett getting an opportunity at focused quarterback work over the last month instead of sticking to his normal scout team duties from the fall.
“We’re going to get to the spring here in a couple of months,” Lashlee said. “Hopefully those 10 to 12 extra practices that Woody got, being in our meetings and not just being with the scout team and those kind of things the whole time will help speed up the development process for him and a lot of those other younger guys.”
While Barrett is viewed as an underdog in the starting quarterback competition, it doesn’t sound like he’ll approach it as one.
Much like White, Barrett isn’t short on confidence when he gets opportunities to shine in front of the Auburn coaching staff.
“When you give him a challenge, he’s going to want to do it,” Johnson said. “I firmly believe if you put him out there right now, he believes in his mind that he could be the greatest quarterback to come through college. You’ve got to like that about him. He’s a guy who’s very confident.”