AUBURN, Ala. — In the nicest possible way, coach Gus Malzahn essentially said “I told you so” following Jarrett Stidham’s first official game as an Auburn Tiger.
“I think I brought that up last week this time that that was probably the biggest concern I had,” Malzahn said on Tuesday morning. “Because he’s performed very well in practice and scrimmages, but there’s nothing like a real game.”
The head coach saw a lot that he liked from the Baylor transfer during Auburn’s 41-7 win over Georgia Southern, but the head coach has no doubts that Stidham’s aware of the improvements he needs to make — or that he’ll make them.
Stidham completed 14-of-24 of his attempts, delivered two touchdowns through the air and added one on the ground. A couple of incompletions weren’t necessarily on Stidham, ether. Select receivers dropped a couple of catchable passes and a new offensive line showed it still have to strengthen its communication.
“I thought he did a whole lot of good things,” Malzahn said. “Really the biggest thing that stood out to me was him just needing experience. A guy who hasn’t played in 600 days or something like that.”
In reality, that’s a longer period of time than most can truly comprehend. Malzahn and his staff have emphasized how playing in a full stadium with the lights on changes everything in the past.
It’s the same for Stidham, even though he has now started four games (and played in more) in his college career.
“To go out there and play another team and different things that go with it and communication up front, communication with your teammates, taking command of the offense, but I thought he did a good job,” Malzahn said. “He’s extremely tough on his self which is usually a sign of a really good quarterback and I expect him to play better this week.”
Malzahn thought at times Stidham was holding onto the football a little too long. Auburn expected some looks to be open that weren’t.
Immediately after the game Stidham said he felt comfortable as soon as he got his first taste of contact during Auburn’s second drive. Even so, the quarterback wasn’t thrilled about his outing, saying he “didn’t play all that great.”
Still, it was a night out in Jordan-Hare Stidham needed. He also has no doubts that he’s going to be better in the coming months.
“It felt good,” Stidham said. “Obviously I haven’t played in 22 months, but I was itching to get back out there, but I thought I did some good things, some bad things. That’s what practice is for, so we’re going to get better.”
Both Stidham’s ability to create when plays break down and deliver passes downfield are clear to Malzahn. Chip Lindsey and Co. kept things basic against their Sun Belt opponent. Auburn will have Kyle Davis back in Memorial Stadium and the offense could look slightly different.
Auburn’s game plan will revolve around Stidham’s strengths and comfortability. And what better way to gain experience than by traveling to one of the most coveted venues in all of college football and taking on the reigning national champions?
“There’s nothing like going out there, you’ve just got to do it,” Malzahn said. “This will be one of the best environments there is, so it will be good for the future. Dealing with the crowd noise and the communication and everything that goes with it I think it will be real good for him.
“I think it’s good for our team. This game will really show where we’re at right now. It will be a good measuring stick. I think it’s good for all of them.”
The post Gus Malzahn expects Jarrett Stidham to ‘play better’ at No. 3 Clemson after getting experience appeared first on SEC Country.
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