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Jarrett Stidham Looks the Part for Auburn

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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For Jarrett Stidham, spring was an opportunity to settle in on the Plains. His unofficial Auburn debut was a resounding success.

The goal this spring was to have an understanding of the base offense. Throughout the spring, I wanted to get more comfortable with it.
~Jarrett Stidham

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham certainly looked the part in the Tigers' annual spring game. A Baylor-transfer who completed over 68% of his passes for 1,265 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions as a freshman in 2015, Stidham threw for 267 yards on 16-of-20 passing, reaching the endzone rushing, as his first-team scored 37 points in an impressive winning effort. Stidham was the offensive MVP. Saturday was just an intrasquad scrimmage, but also a likely sign of things to come.

Stidham, an early enrollee out of high school, could not have ben more highly-touted. He was a top-ranked, five-star signal caller from the heart of Texas, earning Under Armour All-American honors as a next-level prototype. On the gridiron, Stidham threw for over 6,500 yards and 80 touchdowns and ran 1,790 yards and 29 more scores. He was a three-time all-state member, earning the distinction twice at quarterback and once, early in his career, with eleven touchdown catches as a wide receiver.

A scary injury to Seth Russell gave Stidham a quick starting opportunity with the Bears. Even beforehand, however, he was already making plays. Stidham's first-ever college pass was a 42-yard touchdown strike in Baylor's season-opener against SMU. He later completed 9-of-10 tosses with two scores in a big win over Kansas. Before breaking his ankle against Oklahoma State, Stidham had thrown for 258 yards, all in the first-half, against the nationally-ranked Cowboys. 

Re-recruited after leaving the Bears, Stidham was the nation's number one junior college prospect, even though he didn't actually play JUCO football and was just a traditional student. As a result, he is just a sophomore at Auburn with three seasons of eligibility remaining. His addition gives the offense a potential centerpiece to develop around.     

The expectation of many is that Stidham will immediately become one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. On Saturday, he certainly looked the part. Stidham was true on 80% of his passes and averaged 13.5 yards per attempt; for point of reference, his 267 yards, albeit in an exhibition, would have been the Tigers' second-highest team total a year ago and third-highest mark of the last two seasons. There was notable production when Stidham was on the field on Saturday.

Among other big plays, Stidham connected with Nate Craig-Myers for a 50-yard conversion and Darius Slayton for 46 yards. 

On the perimeter, Auburn's receiving corps is young and talented. Stidham will benefit from the return of four rising sophomores in Slayton, Craig-Myers, Kyle Davis and Eli Stove. Junior Ryan Davis appears ready for a starring role and plenty of speed is on the way in. A more consistent passing game could make the Tigers incredibly difficult to prepare for defensively. The possibility of pairing Stidham with Kam Pettway, the league's leading rusher last season, is an impressive one.

First-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has returned to Auburn after successful stints orchestrating high-powered attacks at both Arizona State and Southern Miss. A noted quarterback guru, Lindsey was an offensive analyst for Gus Malzahn when the Tigers played in the BCS National Championship Game in 2013. It was clear that he and Stidham were on the same page over the weekend.   

For Stidham, spring football was an opportunity to settle in on the Plains. His unofficial Auburn debut was a resounding success.

"The goal this spring was to have an understanding of the base offense. Throughout the spring, I wanted to get more comfortable with it," he explained. "Today we ran what we thought we were good at and moved the ball well. I feel really comfortable with it so far." 

Though Malzahn has not yet named a starting signal caller, Stidham appears ready to lead the Tigers forward. Early indications are that he could be quite the x-factor, a new playmaker, for a new-look offense, in the SEC West.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports