The 2016 season is over, and rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to come together and evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but starters return at 12 of the 14 conference schools. The turnaround should be immediate. Even though Auburn returns its starter, a superstar transfer could impact the race immediately.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | LSU Tigers | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Missouri Tigers | Ole Miss Rebels | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Texas A&M Aggies | Vanderbilt Commodores
Key returners: Sean White (junior), John Franklin III (senior)
Key departures: Jeremy Johnson (graduation)
Key additions: Jarrett Stidham (transfer), Woody Barrett (redshirt)
Returning production: 147-234 for 1,883 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs
Departing production: 27-47 for 312 yards, TD, INT
Gus Malzahn’s offense is built around the run, but the past two years just proved how much Auburn needs a passing complement. Quarterback Sean White dealt with injuries all season long that hampered his production. The numbers show how detrimental it was to Auburn’s team success.
When White threw just a single touchdown pass, Auburn was 6-0. In games White started in which he did not throw for a TD, the Tigers were 1-4. Similarly, Auburn was 5-0 when White threw for at least 200 yards in a game.
The sophomore averaged just 152.6 yards per game. Granted, the numbers dropped after dealing with injuries the last five games of the season, but not that much.
But heading into 2017, Jarrett Stidham should change everything. Even though White was solid when he played this past season, Stidham should easily take the starting job. A former top recruit at Baylor, Stidham was ranked the No. 1 overall junior college recruit. In just 10 quarters as a starting quarterback at Baylor, Stidham threw for 934 yards and six touchdowns.
Obviously, that’s with the caveat that these numbers occurred against Big 12 defenses. That said, the performances were against Oklahoma and on the road against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Those are three of the top teams in that conference.
Stidham entering the picture changes everything. It’s obviously unclear whether he can keep up his torrid production, but the talent is there. Stidham can throw for 200 yards and a touchdown in his sleep. The key will be developing partnerships in the wide receiving corps, which struggled to produce. An influx of young talent could help.
During his first season at Baylor, Stidham also dealt with injury issues. White should instantly transition into one of the best backups in the SEC. Even if his talent is relatively limited, White’s knowledge of the system and ability to execute will be a huge boon.
Former backup John Franklin III opted not to transfer after failing to win the starting job, and Auburn will be better off for it. Franklin is one of the better third-string quarterbacks in football. Adding former four-star dual-threat quarterback Woody Barrett as a redshirt freshman will help pad the depth.
From top to bottom, Auburn boasts one of the more attractive quarterback situations in the SEC next season. If Stidham plays passably well, Auburn should be improved from last season. Should he play to the top of his ability, we could soon be talking about the Tigers challenging Alabama for the SEC crown.