When Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn named Jarrett Stidham the team’s starting quarterback earlier this week, few observers in the Auburn camp were surprised.
Neither was Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“He’s a really good player,” Swinney said. “I watched the spring game and have seen clips of him here and there.
“He’s outstanding. You don’t go to Auburn and win that job unless you’re a pretty good player.”
Clemson will face Auburn and Stidham in the season’s second game, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium. The game sets up as an intriguing early-season matchup of two teams with stingy defenses and relatively unproven quarterbacks.
Stidham is a big-armed transfer from Baylor whose only knock is a shortage of experience. He started four games at Baylor two seasons ago and passed for more than 1,200 yards before being injured and replaced.
He attended a local community college near Waco, Texas, last year and didn’t play football, which means he retained three years of eligibility.
Stidham had a solid spring and beat out leading contender Sean White in fall camp. Now he’s eager to face an opponent for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015.
“I know exactly when my last snap was and I’m itching to get back out there,” Stidham said. “Fall camp has been a grind. This is the last week of it, and then we’ll start school and everything like that and just keep it rolling. But I’m ready to get back out there on the field.”
Stidham is expected to bring an element to Auburn’s offense that has been missing the past several years – namely, a vertical passing threat. The Tigers ranked 112th in the nation last year in passing offense, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“I think Jarrett can throw the football down the field,” Malzahn said. “He can really stretch the field.”
Although going vertical is his forte, Stidham also has the ability to escape pressure and run on occasion.
“I think he’s a lot better athlete than people think,” Malzahn said. “He runs a 4.6 (40). He’s got a 35-inch vertical. He’s pretty athletic.”
The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Stidham was rated the No. 1 junior college prospect in the nation before choosing Auburn.
Now the primary goal for Malzahn is keeping him healthy throughout an entire season. An Auburn quarterback hasn’t made it through an entire season since 2010.