HOOVER – Gus Malzahn hasn’t named a starting quarterback, but his confidence betrayed him during the final day of SEC Media Days on Thursday afternoon.
Jarrett Stidham, a transfer quarterback who last played at Baylor, has the fifth-year Auburn head coach wearing an ease that isn’t usually associated with Malzahn. By all accounts of people around the program, Stidham is expected to breathe life into a position that has cost the Tigers dearly the last two seasons.
The thought process goes that when Malzahn has a quarterback he likes, watch out. That thinking seems to mostly hold true as evidenced by Auburn’s seasons with Cam Newton and Nick Marshall as the starting quarterbacks.
Marshall gave Alabama fits in 2013, when the Tigers stunned the Crimson Tide, and again in 2014, when he led the offense to 44 points against Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
However, Malzahn was excited about Jeremy Johnson, too, and that didn’t exactly pan out for him.
Judging by Malzahn’s demeanor and words Thursday, he likes Stidham.
“This season we have one of the more experienced teams coming back in our league offensively,” Malzahn said. “We hired Chip Lindsey (offensive coordinator). I’m excited about Chip. I got a lot of confidence in Chip. He’s going to provide more balance for us. And he’s a quarterback guru, too.
“So I feel very good about that. And probably the thing that I’m most excited about is we have quality depth and our quarterback position. And that’s been our Achilles’ heel the last two years. That gives me, I know our coaches and our players, comfort.”
Again, Malzahn stopped short of naming Stidham the stater, but that is by design, according to those who’ve covered Auburn during his tenure. Malzahn wants to keep Sean White, Auburn’s quarterback who’s battled injuries the last two seasons, mentally in the game.
But make no mistake about it. Those who are high on and predicting big things for the Tigers this season are doing so because of Stidham.
“(Gus likes his) football team and more than that, he’s (publicly confident) when he likes his quarterback,” senior writer at AuburnUndercover.com Brandon Marcello said. “That’s what everything is dependent on. If he really likes his quarterback, he’s a very happy man.
“He really liked his quarterback in 2014 when Nick Marshall was coming back. He was happy in 2015 with Jeremy Johnson. So does that mean good things are on the horizon? You look back in 2015 and you go, ‘Wow, he was very confident then and things fell apart.’ It was his worst season. But everything I keep hearing from people outside of Gus’ circle is that Jarrett Stidham is legit, he’s the real deal. He’s going to be a very good quarterback for them.
“I think (Gus is) very, very comfortable, very confident with what he’s got. It starts with having a good quarterback, and he’s got it right now.”