Freshman Quarterbacks at Auburn
Stan White Leads All Freshman Quarterback Starters With 12 Games
War Eagle, everybody! We are now about a week away from SEC football cranking up again. Hot on the heels of true freshman Bo Nix getting the starting nod for Auburn’s opener, I decided to look back at freshman quarterbacks I can remember at Auburn.
The first freshman I can remember starting was Bobby Walden in 1985. Pat Dye’s team transitioned away from the wishbone that year, and installed a power-I offense featuring backs Bo Jackson and Brent Fullwood. The first 3 games, Auburn rotated 3 quarterbacks, Walden, Jeff Burger (who was a redshirt freshman that year), and Pat Washington. Walden received 3 starts but split playing time. The rotation worked well enough in a blowout win over SW Louisiana and a closer than expected win over Southern Miss. Auburn then traveled to Knoxville, and suffered Pat Dye’s worst loss to Tennessee in his head coaching career, 38-20. Dye stopped the rotation after that game, and Pat Washington started the rest of the year. Walden suffered an unnamed injury after that and never again was a factor. Walden was 2–1 as a starter.
In 1986, I seem to remember redshirt freshman Reggie Slack getting a start against Mississippi State in Starkville, but Jeff Burger came in for the second play and had the rest of the meaningful snaps in a 35–6 blowout.
1990 was freshman Stan White’s year. He started all 12 games for Auburn, and the team had an 8–3–1 record. White would go on to be a 4-year starter and set a number of Auburn passing records.
Gabe Gross was the next Auburn freshman starter in 1998. Gross got starts at Mississippi State, against Louisiana Tech, Arkansas, Central Florida, Georgia, and in Birmingham against Alabama in the last Iron Bowl played at Legion Field. Gross’ freshman record as a starter was 2–4.
Jeff Klein got the call as a redshirt freshman the next year after a shoulder injury to starter Ben Leard. Klein’s first start was in Knoxville, Tennessee, against the defending national champion Volunteers. Klein started against UT, Mississippi State, Florida, and Central Florida, picking up his lone win against the Golden Knights on a late touchdown pass to take the lead in an eventual 28–10 win. Klein was 1–3 as a freshman starter.
Redshirt freshman Jason Campbell got the nod in 2001 and started against Ball State, Ole Miss, at Syracuse, at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Florida before being benched in the Florida game in favor of JUCO transfer Daniel Cobb. Campbell returned to the starting role in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge, Louisiana against LSU. Campbell also started the Chick-fil-A Bowl against North Carolina. Campbell’s record as a freshman starter was 5–3.
Auburn’s next freshman starter was true freshman Kodi Burns against New Mexico State in 2007. He was quickly relieved in favor of 6th year senior Brandon Cox.
In 2012, injuries mounted for the Tigers as the year progressed. True freshman Jonathan Wallace had to finish the 63–21 debacle against Texas A&M and started the rest of the season’s games. Wallace led wins over New Mexico State and Alabama A&M, but the offense failed to score a single point against Georgia or at Alabama. Wallace was 2–2 as a starting freshman quarterback.
The next season in 2013, true freshman Jeremy Johnson got the start on Homecoming against Western Carolina and finished 1–0 as a freshman quarterback starter.
The last Auburn freshman quarterback to start a game was Sean White in 2015. White got his first start at home against Mississippi State, a 17–9 loss. White started against San Jose State, at Kentucky and at Arkansas before injury sidelined him. White returned to start in the Birmingham Bowl against Memphis. As a freshman starter, White’s record was 3–2.
Overall, as best I can tell, Auburn’s record with a freshman starting quarterback is 26–18–1, or a 58.9 percent winning percentage. Against SEC competition, the record is only 10–15–1 (40.4 percent). By comparison, the past 35 years when Auburn has a senior starter at quarterback, the SEC record is 61–26–1, or 69.9 percent.
I suspect that this will be an interesting season, no matter which freshman ends up taking the majority of the snaps.