AUBURN, Ala. — Rhett Lashlee tries to foster a similar relationship with all the quarterbacks on Auburn’s roster.
The offensive coordinator usually speaks to the players in a group, despite their different styles of play, remaining honest with each of them. So there was a clear understanding this fall that Lashlee expected more out of Sean White after the sophomore’s first two seasons on the Plains.
Eventually, White showed Lashlee what he’d been looking for, capitalizing on his 2015 experience to mature as a quarterback and a leader. His progression eventually led Gus Malzahn to name him Auburn’s starter on Thursday night.
On the field, White made the right throws and did what he was asked, providing the presence Auburn needed.
“He’s very consistent. He’s a steady guy,” Lashlee said. “I think last year, he got his feet wet. He’s played, and his teammates believe in him. They’ve seen him go out there and show great toughness. He’s a great competitor. So over the course of the competition, he was just extremely consistent. That probably was the overarching thing.”
But what Lashlee praised even more than White’s consistency, as he spoke about Auburn’s decision for the first time on Sunday afternoon, was White’s unfailing toughness.
Even going back to his high school days, the 6-foot QB was undersized. White’s arm strength was questioned. Still, Lashlee recalled how he was named the MVP of both the Elite 11 camp and the Under Armour All-American Game (as an alternate), never letting his physical shortcomings stop him from succeeding.
“He’s kind of always played with that chip on his shoulder,” Lashlee said. “He’s tough. He proved last year he’s tough, probably to a fault. Sometimes you’d like him to avoid some of these crazy hits he would take in the pocket, but the big thing is he’s got the toughness to stand in there and take it, and I think your teammates respect that.”
The toughness White demonstrated when he was thrown into the starting lineup during Week 4 played a huge part in his growth, boosting his confidence and helping White find his voice among his teammates.
“It’s always hard for a guy that was a redshirt freshman to go up to a fourth-year, fifth-year senior and kind of correct them on some things,” Lashlee said. “But at the end of the day if you’re the quarterback it doesn’t matter if you’re a true freshman or a senior, you’ve got to have the confidence to kind of take charge and tell the guys what you need and communicate on that level. I think he’s a little more comfortable with that now.”