Sean White has been the leader of the Auburn offense for two years, but even with a big Sugar Bowl, his chances of staying the starter with Jarrett Stidham coming in are slim to none.
It has been a trying first two years for Sean White in Auburn. Moderate success has been followed up by injuries that have kept him off the field, rendered unable to lead an offense that’s most effective with him under center.
He enters the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma on Monday finally healthy after a shoulder injury caused him to sit out the last two games. For White, it might be his final chance to lead the Tigers offense, as JUCO transfer and former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham has enrolled at Auburn and is the favorite to be named starter next season.
Could a big game for White help make Auburn’s offseason quarterback competition closer than people might think? ESPN commentator Brent Musburger certainly thinks so.
“Let’s say he has a solid, solid game. Of course, he’s got to be given a little bit of an edge because of experience. That doesn’t mean he can hold off a talented youngster [like Stidham], someone who has been around a little bit, played at the collegiate level.”
That may be true, but the fact is this: unless Stidham gets hurt or proves to be a total flop, White will only see the field in mop up duty for the Tigers after the Sugar Bowl.
Not that White doesn’t deserve to be a starter, this is just a case where Stidham is too good to be kept off the field. For all of the efficiency that White has shown when at his best, the difference between him and Stidham under center is vast.
With Stidham, the Tigers will immediately be considered SEC and College Football Playoff contenders. As a freshman in 2015, he threw for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns while starting three games and seeing backup action in seven more. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Stidham can also be a running threat; something White has struggled with in an offense that thrives with dual-threat quarterbacks.
White’s ceiling is simply not as high, and neither is Auburn’s with him under center. Granted, the Tigers were rolling on offense during the middle of the season with White running the show, but his unfortunate knack for getting injured, along with the overall talent gap between him and Stidham, is too much to overlook.
Coaches do not bring in highly-touted JUCO recruits for them to sit on the bench. Stidham is not John Franklin III, a transfer quarterback possessing the remarkable inability to throw the ball.
White has been a warrior for the Tigers, something Malzahn has stated over and over during the past two seasons. He played hurt at times, even to a fault in the loss against Georgia earlier this season. For that, he has earned the respect of the fans, his fellow teammates and the Auburn coaches.
Alas, winning, and winning big, is key in college football. And in a season where Malzahn will again enter firmly planted atop the hot seat, Stidham makes the Tigers than much better that White ever could.