AUBURN, Ala. — After a bright start at Baylor and a season away from the game, Jarrett Stidham is going to be an Auburn Tiger.
Stidham announced his decision to commit to Auburn on Saturday evening, giving the Tigers the nation’s No. 1 JUCO player and their biggest target for the class of 2017.
The Texas native’s path to Auburn from Baylor is a rather interesting one. He’ll bring a dynamic skill set to what should be a fierce quarterback battle for the potential-filled Tigers offense in 2017.
But who is Jarrett Stidham? Here are 10 things Auburn fans need to know about the quarterback, the transfer and the position the Tigers are in for the future.
1. Jarrett Stidham is one of the highest-rated quarterback recruits in modern Auburn history.
Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but they’re correct more often than not. And the rankings loved Stidham coming out of high school in Stephenville, Texas.
Stidham was a 5-star quarterback recruit and the No. 1 dual-threat passer in the country in the class of 2015, per 247Sports. After transferring from Baylor, he was the clear-cut top JUCO player in the nation with another 5-star rating.
Cam Newton wasn’t even a consensus 5-star recruit coming out of high school or Blinn College. That’s not saying Stidham is going to be better than the Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP by any means. But it goes to show you how highly rated Stidham is among scouts, recruiting services and other schools.
2. Stidham is a true dual threat, even though his Baylor stats don’t quite show it.
In his one and only season at Baylor, Stidham rushed 36 times for 70 yards and 2 TDs. That’s less than Sean White, who wasn’t much of a threat to run in the Auburn offense this season.
But Stidham is undoubtedly a much better runner. He rushed for 1,790 yards and 29 touchdowns in his junior and senior years of high school. According to a scouting report on him in 2014 from Wescott Eberts of SB Nation, Stidham has “lateral quickness and is big enough to break some arm tackles.” He doesn’t have the breakaway speed of a John Franklin III, but he is a threat to create chunks of yards on the ground.
If Stidham becomes the primary quarterback at Auburn, defenses will have to respect his running ability on the zone plays that dominate the Tigers’ playbook. He didn’t have to run it as much during his cameos at Baylor, but Auburn would love to see him do that on the Plains.
3. His best attribute is his deep ball.
Before Sean White’s injury in the second half of the season, the sophomore quarterback was rolling. But the biggest knock on White, even during the times he led the SEC in several major passing categories, was his ability to consistently hit deep passes.
Stidham averaged a whopping 11.6 yards per attempt in the big-play Baylor offense in 2015. He had 258 yards in the first half alone against Oklahoma State, which was his last competitive action. Stidham made throws all over the field for the Bears and showed he could fit the ball into some tight windows.
With the likes of Kyle Davis, Nate Craig-Myers, Darius Slayton and Eli Stove all set to play at least a couple more seasons on the Plains, Auburn now has a quarterback who can get the ball to those vertical threats in a hurry.
Auburn landed a ton of talented receivers last year. With Stidham, they now have someone to stretch the field with.
— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) December 11, 2016
4. Auburn won’t sacrifice accuracy if it goes with Stidham over White.
One of Auburn’s biggest offensive strengths this season was a healthy White completing a high number of his pass attempts. White led the SEC in completion percentage, quarterback efficiency and yards per attempt for several weeks of the season.
Stidham has a bigger arm, but it’s not an erratic cannon. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes as a true freshman at Baylor, which included two starts against a Top 5 and a Top 20 team. In high school, Stidham completed 66 percent of his passes, according to 247Sports.
Auburn’s running game moved at its best in 2016 when offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee set things up with a good number of short-to-intermediate-range passes on early downs. Stidham is used to that kind of workload from his days in Texas.
5. Stidham’s unique 2016 means he has three more years of eligibility.
Stidham’s transfer isn’t a short-term rental like many quarterbacks are these days in the graduate transfer market. Stidham played just one season at Baylor, backing up Seth Russell. He chose to transfer in the wake of the sexual assault scandal in Waco, but he didn’t play a snap in 2016.
Instead, Stidham transferred to McLennan Community College in Texas to take classes and preserve his eligibility. He worked with a high school as a scout team quarterback, but that’s it.
That might mean Stidham could be somewhat rusty in spring practice, but it’s ultimately a positive for Auburn. He’ll be on the Plains for at least the next two seasons. If he wins the starting quarterback job over White, Franklin and Woody Barrett, Auburn can build for the future around his talents.
6. He has his own injury concerns.
Stidham was the top priority at quarterback during this recruiting cycle for Auburn. However, the Tigers couldn’t afford to not get a quarterback if they missed out on the former Baylor star. White’s injuries sapped Auburn’s offense of any effectiveness late in each of the last two seasons. Getting depth was a priority.
Having options at quarterback will be huge if Stidham wins the job. He broke his ankle during the third start of his career — a mid-November win against Oklahoma State. Stidham also injured his hand in that game, which is something he also did during his senior year of high school.
Auburn needed the depth Stidham brings at quarterback. If he goes down with an injury during the 2017 season, Auburn will be glad it has legitimate options — something it didn’t have in 2015 or 2016.
Baylor transfer QB Jarrett Stidham at Auburn Arena pic.twitter.com/IicnPnK3rE
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) November 30, 2016
7. Rhett Lashlee was a huge factor in his decision.
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is usually a target for grief from a section of the Auburn fan base. But without him on the staff, Auburn wouldn’t be in this spot today with Stidham’s commitment.
Stidham became close with Lashlee during this second recruiting process. Lashlee recruited the Texan for Auburn out of high school, and the two hit it off again when he came back onto the market earlier this year. Lashlee was crucial to making this all happen for the Tigers.
Lashlee did a good job tweaking the offense around White’s strengths when he was healthy in 2016. Stidham liked what he saw then, and Lashlee would undoubtedly do the same if he grabbed the starting job next season.
8. Stidham’s arrival is potentially huge for the rest of the 2017 class.
Auburn fans, players and coaches are clearly excited with Stidham’s announcement. His commitment also might fire up some more offensive players to consider the Tigers.
For example, 4-star wide receiver prospect Henry Ruggs told Matthew Stevens of the Montgomery Advertiser earlier this week that Stidham coming to Auburn would “change (his) perception.” The Tigers are looking to add more wide receivers in the class of 2017, which already has a commitment from 4-star prospect Noah Igbinoghene.
Auburn doesn’t have a desperate need for more skill players in this year’s recruiting class. However, top players like to play with other top players, and Stidham is the most coveted quarterback prospect in the entire country for this cycle.
9. He could get a head start on the quarterback battle.
Stidham is expected to officially sign with Auburn within the next week. That means he could be available for Auburn’s Sugar Bowl practices.
If Stidham does that, he’ll get more time to mesh with his new teammates and learn the playbook before spring practices. Stidham was always going to be a mid-year enrollee as a JUCO recruit, but his early decision could put him on the Plains early.
A healthy White is expected to lead Auburn to the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma on Jan. 2. But Stidham could already be plugged into the program by the time the game kicks off in the Big Easy.
10. Stidham clearly thinks Auburn’s future is bright.
In an interview with Daniel Uthman of USA Today, Stidham talked about his desire to transfer to a school that would put him in a position to score points and win championships:
“I just want to find a great coaching staff; that’s big for me,” he says. “At Baylor I was around a lot of good people, and I want to find something like that. That’s a big deal. Also an offense that can put up a lot of points. I want to find a team that is full of good guys on and off the field. A team that I feel like can help me achieve every team goal that I’ve ever wanted — conference championships, Playoffs, national championships.”
Stidham saw all of those things in Auburn, a team with a young and potential-filled offense and a much-improved defense. He has plenty of work to do before he can become QB1 at Auburn, but he’ll be expected to lead the Tigers to great heights over the next couple of seasons.