Tonight, Gus Malzahn made official what many have been suspecting for some time: Sean White is the starting QB for the Clemson game.
Last year, when it was announced that Sean would take over as the starter before the Mississippi State game, I wrote this examination of his 2015 A-Day performance. Included in that are highlights of his time in the 2014 Under Armour All-American game. He was the MVP of that game and the Elite 11 QB camp. Let's not forget, in terms of recruiting rankings, he was actually rated higher than Jeremy Johnson was the year previously.
So, we know Sean White is the QB. What does that mean for Auburn's 2016 offense? Or, at least, what does it mean for the offense in the first game against Clemson? What will it look like? Is there anything out there we can base judgement on?
Well, yeah. And not just the games Sean White played in during the 2015 season, either. If you want to know what Gus Malzahn's offensive system can look like with a QB like White, then look no further than every single season Gus has coached college football other than 2010, 2013, and 2014.
Yep, look back at 2007 Tulsa highlights. I can't find a comprehensive highlight package of 2008, but here are a bunch of games and other highlights from that season. You can say "but that's not against SEC competition" all you like, and you'll be right, but that's not the point. It's the play calling and style that is the point. Those years may be even more relevant because Herb Hand was co-offensive coordinator with Gus Malzahn those years. I would strongly bet that Hand will have a hand (no pun intended) in this offense.
Here are some games from Auburn's 2009 season if you want to see those. Go back and watch the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia. That was Gus Malzahn's last game before leaving for the Arkansas State job. That was a game where he was cut loose to call a game like he wanted, and it was a whole lot of fun. Here are 2012 Arkansas State highlights, too.
No, Sean White is not Nick Marshall. He's not Cam Newton. Gus Malzahn does not need a dual threat QB to be successful. Yes, he's been at his best at Auburn with a dual threat QB. He's also had some of the best offenses in the nation and consistently top offenses in his conferences with QBs who were not considered "dual threat."
I'm not going to argue that a dual threat QB wouldn't be the best option if one was available who could provide a good threat in the passing game, as well, like Marshall could. It's quite obvious that John Franklin III isn't even at Marshall's level of passing, though, and it's not like Sean White can't provide at least 2012 Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin level of mobility if called upon.
I've been a Sean White advocate since the end of last season. I think - as long as the wide receivers are able to catch the ball - he provides the Tigers with the best chance to win among the quarterbacks on the roster right now based on what we, the fans, have been able to see. I don't know what's gone on in practices. I only know what I've seen on the field and in highlights/scrimmages. Perhaps most importantly, we know from "insider" reports and what Gus said tonight that the players have the most confidence playing with him. Kerryon Johnson called him "spicy" and says he has a "little mean streak in him." He has the team. That's a huge deal.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post on reasons to be optimistic about the QB battle and I pointed to last year's Kentucky and Arkansas games. I'll go back to that again and point out one other thing about Gus Malzahn and his history as a coach that I've noted numerous times before. Gus usually takes 2-3 games at best before he figures out the best type of plays to call for that QB's particular strengths. It was that way with Cam Newton. It was that way with Nick Marshall. By Kentucky and Arkansas in 2015, we saw the playbook opening up. We saw Gus and Rhett calling easily their best games of the 2015 season.
They know what White can do. They know what plays to call. There is no need for a learning curve. It's all there and it's all open for the Clemson game. With the 2016 schedule, there is no real chance to "learn as you go."
We're just over one week away from the Clemson game. All the speculation will be out the window and we'll finally see just what this 2016 football team will look like. I, for one, am excited by the prospect of a wide-open hurry up/no huddle balanced power-running and passing attack like Malzahn was known for when he first arrived at Auburn.
War Eagle. Always.