The Man: Auburn's New Signal Caller, Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham taking questions from the media on Monday, August 14 (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
"I haven't played since November 21st of 2015. I know exactly when my last snap was."
The new starting quarterback of the Auburn Tigers, Jarrett Stidham, has not competed in a Division 1 FBS-level game in two years, a game that was played in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Stidham's then team, Baylor, had knocked off Oklahoma State, 45-35, improving the Bears's record to 9-1. In the game, Stidham completed 12 of 21 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown before injuring his ankle, cutting his freshman season short.
Little did he know, that would be the last time he would wear a Baylor uniform.
After leaving Baylor, Stidham decided to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, where he worked on completing college courses, without playing football. Instead he elected to work with a trainer to perfect his craft while participating in the recruiting process.
On Monday, his hard work had officially paid off.
The Stephenville, Texas native entered the auditorium of the Auburn Athletics Complex on Monday with a smile on his face, as he was in the beginning stages of winding down from a huge business day. Earlier in the day, Head Coach Gus Malzahn named Stidham the official starter of the 2017 season, first to the team, then to twitter.
"Man, I'm feeling great," the Baylor transfer said when asked how he felt about being named starting quarterback for the Tigers. "I'm very blessed to be in this position. I'm fired up, it's been a good day."
Stidham battled tough with junior Sean White to win the job, but says that the work is far from being over. There are a few things he wants to perfect before starting his first game of the season.
"Getting more experience every day, that's a big thing that I am trying to focus in on. Trying to get those reps, especially against the defense in scrimmages, getting those live reps."
Earlier in preseason camp, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said that the winning candidate would be a guy that puts the team in the best position to win. More than talent, the coaches wanted someone who could lead the team, to serve as an on-field coach if you will. H-Back Chandler Cox says that Stidham is a fiery guy who leads by pumping his teammates up, and encouraging them when things are not going well. Stidham confirmed that statement on Monday.
"I really love the game of football, it's a big part of my life obviously. I just like to have fun with it. At the end of the day, you are playing because you love it. I always like to keep that fun factor to it regardless if we are having a good day or a bad day. Chandler (Cox) definitely helps with that."
One of the many things that fans think of when talking about the 2017 Auburn Tigers, are the receivers. This year's team features young, but experienced receivers including Darius Slayton, Kyle Davis, and Will Hastings. Stidham is excited to have this group of talented receivers on his side.
"Coming from Baylor, I got to work with a lot of talented wide receivers. This group is really, really special. The good thing about it is, there is a lot of really young talent. We have a couple veterans (like) Ryan Davis. There's guys that are very different. Eli (Stove), Noah (Igbinoghene), they are kind of quicker guys, (also) Will (Hastings). Then you have Kyle (Davis), Darius (Slayton), Sal (Canella), the bigger guys that can kind of go in and out, and Marquis (McClain) is stepping up. They are a great group of guys, and they love to play football. I'm trying to get the ball into their hands as much as I can."
Stidham's approach to winning the job is an interesting one. He states that "you always have to be thinking that you're the guy" when you are a quarterback, no matter your spot on the depth chart. Many Auburn fans pinned him as starter when he committed to the Tigers on December 10, 2016. Although the hype was sizable, Stidham knew that the job was not promised.
"You need to come to work every single day like are the guy. That's something that Coach (Chip) Lindsey
talks to us about, whether you are first string, third string, second string, whatever. You have to prepare like you are going to be the guy."
Stidham says that the mindset of preparing at Auburn comes from an experience that he had at Baylor during his freshman season in 2015, which gave him a chance to start three games.
"I ran into a situation like that at Baylor, where Seth Russell got hurt, then I had to step in. Then I got hurt, and another guy had to step in. That happened with Coach Lindsey last year at Arizona State. It's always about staying ready, and staying on top of your game at all times."
While joy is expressed on one end of the battle, there is also another side to it. Stidham lands the starting job over junior, and starter for the better half of two seasons, Sean White. Stidham says that there is no tension between the two based on the decision.
"Sean has been very supportive. (The coaches) brought us in this morning and told us what was going to happen. Sean has been nothing but supportive all day today. Very positive and upbeat. It's been really good."
Stidham said that Malzahn told him the news first, prior to telling the team. Now that the fire has died down, Stidham is now eager to get to work, and to prepare for Georgia Southern on September 2.