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Early 2018 Outlook - Jarrett Stidham

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I like what I see.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

It was announced today that Jarrett Stidham had a minor surgical procedure on his left shoulder.

There’s not a whole lot of detail on what this small procedure was or why it was necessary, but Stidham is expected to go through spring practice, which begins at the end of February. Thankfully, it’s not his throwing arm, so this shouldn’t hinder his passing game much at all.

Also this week, we got the early odds on some of the favorites for the 2018 Heisman Trophy. Jarrett Stidham’s name was prominent among them, along with a few other household SEC names.

Stidham’s tied for the seventh-best odds for the Heisman with West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, and he should be pretty well set to at least make a run at the award. Here’s why:

PROS

  • YEAR TWO IN CHIP LINDSEY’S SYSTEM: Stidham obviously got more and more comfortable as the season went along, but there were some growing pains as he found that sense of familiarity in Lindsey’s system. Through the first three games of the year, he only had two touchdown passes, and didn’t seem like he felt safe in the backfield at times. Once we got into SEC play, Stidham started to see the way the offense worked, and progressively got more and more efficient as the year went on. Now, with a full season and two full offseasons of practice with his receivers, we should see a much faster start out of the gate. Speaking of those receivers...
  • EXPERIENCED WIDEOUTS: Guess who’s back, back again. Literally everyone. Auburn’s top five wide receivers in terms of yardage are all returning.

Ryan Davis: 84 catches, 815 yards, 5 TDs

Darius Slayton: 29 catches, 643 yards, 5 TDs

Will Hastings: 26 catches, 525 yards, 4 TDs

Nate Craig-Myers: 16 catches, 285 yards, 3 TDs

Eli Stove: 29 catches, 265 yards

Have we ever gotten this kind of a passing attack back from one season to the next? I can’t recall one off the top of my head. We had Nick Marshall and Sammie Coates, but that was a run-heavy offense, and we went from Jason Campbell/Obomanu/Aromashodu/Taylor to Cox/Obomanu/Aromashodu/Taylor. Even the Terry Bowden years there was the transition from Stan White to Patrick Nix while Frank Sanders, Willie Gosha, Thomas Bailey, and Andy Fuller returned from 1993 to 1994. I don’t remember getting literally everyone back. You can see that those five guys alone accounted for 17 TDs and roughly 2500 yards of offense through the air. That rapport will only kickstart things off quickly in 2018.

  • OFFENSIVE EMPHASIS: While we lose Kerryon Johnson and Kam Pettway, the running game will be an actual question mark to begin the season in 2018. Without a true go-to guy, and with the fact that it usually takes Gus a few games to figure out his bread and butter on offense anyway, we’ll surely start the attack with what we know works. That means that Stidham and his receivers will get plenty of chances to show off early while we work on identifying a feature back.
  • BIG STAGE EARLY: Just the same way that everyone remembered Stidham hitting the deck eleven times at Clemson, we can have the opposite effect in the first game of 2018 against Washington. The Huskies will meet us in Atlanta (maybe third time’s the charm at the Benz), and if Stidham can have a big game to lead the Tigers to a win over a likely top-ten team, then he’ll be put on the map early. It always helps to get that preseason and September buzz in the Heisman race. He’ll also have plenty of chances at home — LSU comes calling in Week three, and some stat-padding games appear on the slate as well with Alabama State, Arkansas, and Southern Miss. If Auburn’s undefeated by the time the Tigers head to Starkville, they’ll be a top five team, and Stidham will likely be near the top of all the Heisman polls.

CONS

  • OFFENSIVE LINE: There’s really only one glaring flaw in the plan to get Stidham going early in 2018, and that’s a nearly-new offensive line. Auburn loses Austin Golson, Darius James, Casey Dunn, and All-American Braden Smith from the 2017 offensive line, and will have to figure it out under new (old) offensive line coach J.B. Grimes. The Tigers gave up a ton of sacks under Herb Hand last year, and so the work’s cut out for Grimes in getting his current group up to snuff right away. It won’t be pretty if we have to endure another sack attack early on against Washington and LSU.

Either way, there are plenty of opportunities for Jarrett Stidham to enjoy a very good 2018, and I would expect that he easily breaks the Auburn single-season passing yards record set by Dameyune Craig in 1997. I predicted that for 2017, but alas.