With signing day behind us and a new class of Tigers on board, it's time to turn our attention to what this football team may look like going into the 2017 season. We still have spring practice to go and many of the 2017 recruiting class won't arrive until this summer, but it's the offseason and a time of making up content, so that's what we're doing.
Here we are at the end. The last group. The most important group. Auburn's fortunes over the last two seasons have been tied to two things: defense and QB play. The defense should be fixed. The QBs not so much.
Sean White, John Franklin III, Woody Barrett, Tyler Queen
Jarrett Stidham, Malik Willis
It's nice to have something that looks like good depth at the position. Of course, I'm not sure what type of quality it all is, but there's depth.
Sean White will probably miss Spring Practice (I know he says he hopes to be ready, but the doctors shouldn't let him no matter how much he says he's good), so the main competition in the Spring will be between Jarrett Stidham and JF3. Woody Barrett could have the light come on and be ready, but I think he still needs another year or so. It will be interesting to see what may happen with Tyler Queen. If he's finally healthy, he may force his name in the discussion, too.
There won't be a QB named before Fall, especially if White sits out the Spring. The team loves Sean White and they love playing for him. He's going to get a chance to fight for the job. The really intriguing thing will be to see what happens after Spring Practice with JF3. Will he consider changing positions or will he maybe transfer?
Malik Willis getting in early is a huge boost for his development in the offense. I don't think he has a chance to be Jalen Hurts and start as a true freshman, but maybe he'll shock us all. He only has one true year of QB experience at the high school level (if you want to know one reason why he may not have been rated as high), so he probably needs a bit of seasoning before he is in the discussion.
When we get to the Fall, I really think Stidham will end up being the QB. He's going to have a ton of weapons around him - and don't forget he was the #2 DT QB in the nation out of HS, so he's a weapon himself - and a great line to block for him. If Sean White beats him for the job, then that means White has hopefully stepped his game up to a new level.
Either way, if the starter goes down at least we know that there's a quality guy right behind him who can take the reigns. That hasn't been the case over the last two seasons and I think that more than anything else is the reason why the seasons have been so disappointing. The QB play on the Plains should be much improved this fall.
Jarrett Stidham is my guess.
That brings us to the end of the position groups. Monday we'll have a pre-Spring Practice piece. Then, on Tuesday, practice begins. Gus likes to spread his spring practices out - and give them a week off for Spring Break - so the Tigers are beginning on February 28th this year. I'm a huge fan of it because it gives us more time to talk about real football in the offseason.