Heisman No. 4? What does Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham have to do to be college football’s best?
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What has to happen for Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham to win the Heisman Trophy?
John G. — Facebook
AUBURN, Ala. — Heisman Trophy dreams are somewhat common among the elite talent in college football. But actually winning the prestigious award? The athletes who manage that are in a league of their own.
Auburn watched as Cam Newton proved to be the nation’s best in 2010 and have since had high hopes for running backs who made a late push to be finalists (think Tre Mason, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson). With all the backfield skill, though, another quarterback could very well find himself in New York City representing Auburn.
Jarrett Stidham proved he had the potential to be elite during his first season as a Tiger. Yes, he struggled early and late in the season, but without him Auburn wouldn’t have beaten two top-ranked rivals in November and it would have been a strikingly different year.
Becoming a Heisman winner is hard, but for Stidham, it’s even harder. First off, Stidham was spoiled last season. He had the luxury of playing behind Braden Smith and Austin Golson.
This season, the Texan is looking at playing behind an offensive line that is not as experienced. Injuries slowed several centers this spring and that race probably won’t be decided until a few weeks into fall camp. Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes is going to have to hustle to get his guys ready and Stidham is going to have to adapt quickly to his new group. Honestly, as difficult as that will be, that’s the easy part for Stidham.
Stidham is going to have to be so successful that there is no room for questions if he hopes to join the Cam Newton, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan Club. The Tigers need to open with a strong victory against Washington in Atlanta in September and then Auburn will have to beat Georgia and Alabama on the road. A win at Georgia and a loss to Alabama (or vice versa) probably will cost Stidham a great deal.
It’s not necessarily fair, but Stidham is going to have to be as close to perfection as possible. Churning out a couple of memorable plays with his feet would help matters, simply for highlight purposes. Some of Stidham’s success will depend on how much offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and Gus Malzahn let him loose in the deep passing game.
Even before big road wins or late-game heroics, Stidham will have to do something this summer to increase his Heisman odds. He has to prove he’s still the leader Auburn needs him to be. Note, I didn’t say the guy. That’s already a sure thing. Stidham will start and it will be the first time in a couple of years that Auburn isn’t waiting for a fall camp quarterback announcement.
After one year of leading his offense, teammates know the kind of person and player Stidham is. They also understand what kind of competitor he is. There’s not any wiggle room for him to misstep or cut corners. From the outside looking in, it seemed that Stidham did a good job of building genuine relationships and earning the players’ trust last season. In his second year, those efforts will need to be even stronger.
Again, that’s not necessarily fair. If Stidham, who’s returning as Auburn’s second 3,000-yard passer in school history, improves slightly in his second season on the Plains and Auburn has double-digit wins (including at least one against Georgia and Alabama), he probably deserves to be in the Heisman discussion. But for this quarterback, the standards are simply higher.