Heisman hopeful Jarrett Stidham anxious to expand role for defending SEC West champion Auburn
By Ben Baby, Staff Writer Contact Ben Babyon Twitter:@Ben_Baby
ATLANTA -- Jarrett Stidham feels really old.
Sure, the Auburn junior quarterback is still 21. But since the end of last season, the Stephenville native has hit some major milestones -- he received his degree and got engaged. He even has the dad jokes down.
"I don't even know if they know what Lion King is, something like that," Stidham said Thursday at SEC media days in Atlanta, referencing the recent Auburn recruits born in the 2000s. "It's a little concerning."
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After a year at Auburn, the former Baylor quarterback and one-time prized recruit feels like a veteran. Between the preseason Heisman hype and the freedom he will receive this season, he's being treated like a grown-up, too.
"I know what to expect," Stidham said on the last day of the four-day event at the College Football Hall of Fame. "I know what the coaches are looking for. I'm really anxious to go out there and have more control this fall camp and moving into the season."
This season, Stidham will have the freedom to make pre-snap decisions at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of mismatches. Being promised that responsibility by the coaching staff was one of the reasons why he decided to stay at Auburn instead of turning pro after his third year of college.
"I want to be able to be own up to the decisions on the field that I make," Stidham said. "If I make the wrong call, I make the wrong call and I learn from it. No one's perfect."
In his first season of action since his freshman year at Baylor in 2015, Stidham appeared to limit his mistakes. He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Auburn senior linebacker Deshaun Davis said when Stidham arrived after a year in which he was Waco Midway's scout-team quarterback while attending McLennan Community College, his new teammates didn't know if he was going to fit in with the group.
Eventually, he quickly emerged as a leader for a team that represented the SEC West in the conference title game.
"He was himself, and that was enough for us," Davis said. "Ever since last year around this time, we knew he was going to be the guy. We stuck with him, and we're sticking with him to this day."
During his time with the media, Stidham was asked about his re-recruitment after he transferred from Baylor after coach Art Briles was fired in the midst of a sexual assault scandal. He said he was selling his abilities to Texas A&M and former coach Kevin Sumlin more than the previous staff was recruiting him.
Sumlin, who was fired in December after six seasons, never really discussed his pursuit of the former 4-star quarterback. Last fall, Stidham was 20-of-27 passing for 268 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-27 win at Kyle Field.
"It was very satisfying in College Station because of how the whole recruiting thing went and whatnot," Stidham said with a laugh.
And as Stidham pointed out, it all seems to have worked out for him. He has the chance to lead coach Gus Malzahn's squad back to the SEC title game and is a 12-to-1 favorite to win the Heisman, according to Bovada.
When the season starts in August against Washington in Atlanta, he's looking forward to becoming even more of a veteran and being a leader on a team who helps the younger players on the roster develop.
In other words, Jarrett Stidham is all grown up.
"I know he's chomping at the bit for August 3rd to get here and to get out there and lead the offense and lead the team and see where it goes," Malzahn said.