Jarrett Stidham: A Scouting Report
USA TODAY Sports
This past weekend, Auburn received a commitment from the nation’s number one JUCO player, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who had been trending toward the Tigers for some time. Stidham will come to the Plains with a full three years of eligibility. He will compete with Sean White and Woody Barrett for the starting job, leaving John Franklin III with some hard decisions to make.
He comes to Auburn having started three games for the Baylor Bears after No. 1 QB Seth Russell suffered a season-ending neck injury. The Bears won two of those three, dropping the game to the Oklahoma Sooners 44–34. Stidham’s two interceptions were keys to the loss. However, the freshman chipped a bone in his ankle and continued to play, and a hand injury the next week sidelined him for the rest of the year. All told, Stidham finished the year with 1,265 yards, 12 TD’s, and two INT’s. He added another 76 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
A few points before breaking down his film. First and foremost, Stidham was a perfect fit for the Art Briles offensive system. He left an identical system in Stephenville, Texas, the school where Art Briles coached from 1988–1999. Additionally, Art Briles is likely the best system-oriented offensive mind in the country. and his son Kendal is a close second.
Despite player turnover, they were able to have an offense that was tops in college football. The system requires elite players at the skill positions while sacrificing interior line play by spreading the field and attacking the edges. There is a nearly 50-percent focus on screens and swing passes and heavy emphasis on run/pass options, all of which feed into a vertical passing attack.
The system is similar to the Gus Malzahn offense, but is not exactly the same. Where a heavy between-the-tackles rusher in combination to an edge-attacking QB and/or sweep player sets up the downfield pass, the Art Briles system operates in the opposite fashion. In addition, Briles was able to recruit and develop receivers on a consistent basis while relying on the quarterback to make options on the fly and execute properly. In Malzahn’s defense, the Big 12 does not field defenses as good as the worst SEC teams. The question becomes, will Stidham fit in the Hurry Up No Huddle offense?
Jarrett Stidham measures in at 6′ 3,” and his weight is reported from 190–210 pounds. He is listed as running a 4.6 40-yard dash. His highlights show obvious differences between his sideline-to-sideline and straight line speeds and also show a player whose scrambling abilities require three to five steps to build speed as opposed to a quick three step drop, plant, and explode on a dedicated draw. He doesn’t have elusiveness in the open field, but he does have the ability to break tackles. The further down the field he is, the better his ability to break tackles. Conversely, he struggles with contact at the line of scrimmage.
He has superb pocket presence, his footwork is good. Even as a high school recruit, his three-and five-step drops were crisp, and he doesn’t have nervous feet or show signs of nervousness such as patting the football. He does a fair job at looking off defenders, but his ball security on zone read and in the open field will be a concern. While he won’t be asked to run the pitch option, he frequently made bad reads but was bailed out by his athleticism.
Stidham has two throwing motions, one for window throws and one for touch passes. The former is reminiscent of Cam Newton, and is more rail-like that appears to be a pushing motion instead of an over-the-top rotation. This is mainly because of his long arms that allow him to add zip on the ball without having to add rotational force. His ball placement for touch passes is a deliberate act, a windmill motion that takes too long to develop. This makes many of his throws to open receivers fall slightly behind the receiver and into jeopardy. With SEC speed on the other side of the ball, he will have to tighten this throwing motion and throw ahead of the open receiver.
While many of his highlights show superior decision making, one must keep in mind that many of these highlights are less about his in-play decision making and more about with the window dressing and movement of defenders. Still, he has to exploit the matchup, which he does well. He excels against zone defenses, but his chances of facing a zone defense in a down-hill, HUNH offense are slim. He will have to make timing throws, of which the available film doesn’t show many.
However, Stidham does show the ability to throw into tight windows, especially slants and post routes, both staples of the Art Briles offense. Though ball placement anywhere on the field isn’t his greatest attribute, he is absolutely lethal on bootlegs. He can bootleg both ways and make incredible ball-placement throws, especially to the sidelines. In both high school and at Baylor he was at his best outside the pocket on designed bootlegs throwing on the run downfield.
Jarrett will enroll at Auburn as perhaps the most polished and talented quarterback on the roster. The job will be his to lose. The questions about a Stidham-led offense will be focused not only on Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee but also on receivers coach, Kodi Burns. Baylor’s offensive machine was good because of perimeter players, many of whom are enjoying success on NFL rosters. Stidham will enjoy a running game he didn’t possess at Baylor, but he will be no different than Sean White if Auburn’s young receivers are not developed.