It’s been a foregone conclusion for a long time among spectators: Jarrett Stidham will be Auburn’s starting quarterback. Naturally, that means Sean White, last year’s preferred starter, will not be under center when the Tigers kick off on September 2.
After being underappreciated and underestimated time and time again, it appears he’s finally been tossed aside by fans. Gus Malzahn insists that there actually is a battle going on at the quarterback position, but it seems nothing can stop the Jarrett Stidham hype train at this point.
And that leaves White in a familiar position — needing to prove himself.
.@ChaddScott: "I applaud Sean White for sticking it out. A lot of guys would have transferred."— Opening Drive (@openingdrive) July 11, 2017
He’s having as thankless a career as a quarterback could have. When White is on the field, Auburn’s offense hums along, posting ridiculous amounts of yards and points. But the masses have still been calling for more, insisting that the rising junior isn’t enough.
True, his 9-5 record as a starter isn’t impressive, but consider the circumstances.
He was thrown into the fire as a true freshman when Heisman hopeful Jeremy Johnson flamed out three games into the 2015 season. Despite admirable performances, the Tigers barely reached the 6-6 mark before winning the Birmingham Bowl over Memphis.
Last year, he was part of a bizarre game of musical quarterbacks with Johnson and dual-threat transfer John Franklin III in an opening game loss to Clemson. When the coaches finally came to their senses and made White the full time starter, Auburn’s offense took off.
Until injuries against Georgia and Oklahoma drastically altered his play and ultimately sidelined him, the Tigers hadn’t realized just how much they needed White under center.
Simply put, Auburn’s offense was better with him on the field.
Certainly not a physical freak at 6’0″ and 200 pounds, White makes up for his lack game-breaking athleticism with a very cerebral brand of quarterbacking. When he wasn’t battling injuries and bizarre lineup shuffling, he was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.
Before those disastrous, injury-riddled games against Georgia and Oklahoma, Sean White had posted a 69 completion percentage, 9.1 yards per pass, and 162.8 quarterback rating through nine games, all tops in the SEC at the time.
Through those first nine games, the Tigers averaged 34.7 points and 494.1 yards per game, including 299.7 rushing yards per game.
He directed the offense flawlessly, facilitating the tempo needed for Malzahn’s offense to flourish, and protected the ball very well.
However, for all his efficiency, questions about his long term health and inability to facilitate a deep passing attack caused many to jump off White’s bandwagon when Stidham committed to Auburn in December.
In fact, it seems the only thing keeping Sean White from being great is his health. In just two seasons, he’s sustained three major injuries — one to his knee, his throwing shoulder, and his forearm.
Bottom line: it’s obvious that Auburn needs Sean White.
He’s important to the Tigers’ roster for two reasons that can be summed up with two words: experience and depth.
Gus Malzahn said at SEC Media Days that he is encouraged by his team’s depth at the quarterback position. Sean White is a huge reason for that.
If Jarrett Stidham turns out to be a star, it would still only take an injury to press White back into action. And after two straight seasons of inconsistency, it’d be nice to have a little reassurance.
And White has already proven that, when healthy, he can lead Auburn’s offense to very impressive heights. He earned the trust of the offense last season and, for a time, his rightful place as the team’s starter.
Times QB names mentioned by Gus Malzahn at #SECMD17: Sean White (3), Jarrett Stidham (2), Malik Willis (1).— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) July 14, 2017
Stidham or not, Sean White is still very important to this team. It’s a fact that can’t be ignored.