Numbers Tell the Story: Sean White One of SEC’s Best Quarterbacks
photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Auburn cracked the Top 25 this week after a convincing win over Mississippi State. The No. 23 ranking is due in part to a revived defense. But perhaps more important has been the leadership and play of the Auburn signal caller, Sean White.
Although he was a 4-star star athlete coming out of high school and won the Elite quarterback competition, many doubted Sean White was the best choice to start for Gus Malzahn’s fast-paced offense.
Yet when he was forced into action after Jeremy Johnson was benched, the redshirt freshman excelled—that is until he sustained a knee injury against Arkansas. Even in that game he threw for 189 yards in the second half. As a freshman he had three 250+ yards passing games, making him only the second freshman QB to throw for at least 250 yards in multiple games in Auburn history. The other was Stan White, who did it four times in 1990.
He started this season rotating with Johnson and JUCO transfer running QB John Franklin III. After that failed experiment, Malzahn named him the unquestionable starter. Still, some fans were not satisfied with the decision. Many feel Malzahn’s offense is at its best when run by a mobile QB like Nick Marshall. While Sean is no Nick Marshall, he has proven he can scramble as he did for a score against State last week end.
In addition, there’s one attribute that White posses’ that can’t be coached—leadership. When he’s on the field he makes the players around him better. Running back Kerryon Johnson said, “He has a little mean streak to him. He’s not going to back down from anybody. He’s a spicy player and he loves competition. That’s the thing that people get out of playing with him. They really get that attitude that you can feed off of as a team.”
However, at the beginning of this season, he received unfair criticism from some because of the offense’s lack of scoring touchdowns in the red zone against Clemson and Texas A&M. But since Gus turned the play calling over to Rhett Lashlee, the offense has scored touchdowns 14 out of 16 times inside the twenty.
Lashlee has crafted a balanced attack around White’s strengths. And the main skill strength a healthy White brings to the table is accuracy. Even though Auburn only threw two passes in the second half against Miss. State, Sean was 14-of-18 for 204 yards and a touchdown. He has a 77 percent completion rate over the last three games, and his overall 69.7 percent rating and 9 yards-per-pass average leads the SEC and is the eighth best in the country.
Those stats make Sean White the best quarterback in the SEC over the last three games. No one that’s followed him should be surprised at his success. As a recruit, he was the MVP at the prestigious Elite 11 camps and was also named the MVP at The Opening. Both events showcase the nation’s best college prospects.
Elite 11 coach Matt James said, “Besides Kyle Allen [now at Houston], Sean’s the most consistent passer we have had. His steps are on time. He throws it nice. He looks a lot like [Cincinnati Bengals starter] Andy Dalton but better.”
At The Opening, the top 160 kids in the nation are divided into teams for competition. His coach (former NFL QB Charlie Frye) was very impressed with him. “He’s telling the other QB’s what to do,” said Frye at the time. “He’s making these guys better. Just talking about him, I’m getting goosies. He had nine completions and five TD’s, and he also had a dropped TD. ”
People are finally starting to see what the coaches at the Elite 11 and The Opening saw. Namely, that Sean White is a leader, and a good quarterback with a strong and accurate arm. And with a revived defense and the great supporting cast he has around him, Auburn still has a chance to do something special in 2016.