Jarrett Stidham wowed the Auburn faithful by completing 16 of 20 passes for 267 yards in the Tigers’ A-Day spring game last Saturday.
Stidham, the highly touted Baylor transfer, has firmly taken control of the Auburn quarterback race. He will be the prized weapon on offense for the Tigers in 2017. Stidham’s skill set and leadership will also land the Tigers as a trendy pick for the summer preview magazine parade and sports talk fodder across the south.
Buzz generated off performances in spring games often prove misleading. Whether that buzz is warranted will be revealed early in the 2017 season. Auburn visits the defending national champion Clemson Tigers in Week 2. Clemson has captured the previous three meetings against Auburn, including a 38-24 win in Death Valley in September 2011 that snapped a 17-game Auburn winning streak.
Stidham performed marvelously in the comfortable setting of Auburn’s A-Day. Nothing will be comfortable about Death Valley on September 9. It will be hot and loud with the full pressure of a national-television audience tuning in for a match-up of potential Top-10 teams.
Instead of simulated game designed to make him look good, Stidham will be squaring off with Brent Venables –the 2016 Frank Broyles Award winner — who will be doing everything in his power to make him look bad. Venables pushed his defense to a school-record 49 sacks in 2016 and 130 tackles for loss. He’ll be blitzing, stunting and pressuring Stidham in ways he never has seen before. Venables has a full off-season to game plan around making Stidham’s life miserable.
He also has talent that, man-for-man, figures to be better than Auburn’s at the point of attack. Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence already is starting to generate attention as the top pick in the NFL draft in 2019.
The result of this budding rivalry will have big-time implications for both teams. It will also be the first true test for Stidham as Auburn’s starting quarterback; his grade will go a long way toward determining the Tigers’ fortunes.
(You can follow Patrick Tighe on Twitter @Patrick_Tighe)
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.