This season will be an extremely important one for the Auburn Tigers and head coach Gus Malzahn. Picking the right quarterback is vital, and according to reports, Malzahn has finally put an end to the Tigers’ quarterback battle.
Sophomore Sean White will be “the guy” for Auburn. Malzahn announced on Thursday night that White would be the starting quarterback heading into a huge season opener against Clemson.
“He’s earned it,” Malzahn said in the press release. “He’s a guy that has experience in our offense. He’s a tough guy. He’s in a good spot to lead this team. The team’s going to rally around him so I’m excited for him.”
Experience is a funny word to use when describing White since he played in only seven games last season — in large part due to injury. One of the quarterbacks he was competing against is Jeremy Johnson, a senior who played in 11 games last season for the Tigers. The other was JUCO transfer John Franklin III.
Though he did only play in just over half of Auburn’s games last season, White led the team in passing. He completed 83-of-143 passes for 1,167 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. White will need to reduce turnovers if he wants to get his coach off the hot seat, though it’s worth noting that Johnson threw seven interceptions of his own last season, compared to 10 touchdowns.
Malzahn seems confident in his choice.
“I think he’s improved in all areas,” Malzahn said. “He competed at a high level last year and battled through some injuries.
“He’s a smart guy that understands the offense. He battled. He battled hard in fall camp. It’s tough when you rotate three guys and you’re in a battle, it’s tough on all three of them. But he responded very well.”
Though the numbers aren’t all that impressive for White, there is plenty of reason to believe he’s the right guy for the job. One, his coach believes in him — that’s all that matters at this point.
His teammates have expressed belief in him as well. Here’s what Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson told Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com about White:
“He’s not going to back down from anybody. He’s a spicy player and he loves competition,” Johnson said. “That’s the thing that people get out of playing with him. They really get that attitude that you can really feed off of as a team.”
Receiver Marcus Davis also expressed his confidence in the new starting quarterback.
“You have a guy you’re real confident in,” Davis said. “He is really intelligent and knows the offense. We’re just excited about going on. We’re ready to move forward.”
So yeah, perhaps 2015 was underwhelming for White, but at this point it doesn’t really matter. The past is the past, and heading into a very big year for the program, the best thing Malzahn has done so far is find a quarterback the rest of the team believes in.
That’s just as important as any stat lines from his freshman season, because when the hits are for real, White — not his stats — will have to lead that offensive huddle on Saturdays.
You get the sense his team wouldn’t have it any other way.