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Numbers Tell the Story: Sean White One of SEC’s Best Quarterbacks

By on October 11th, 2016 in Football, News 25 Comments »

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.


  1. ausouthal says:

    People think AU has to have a running qb because our better seasons came with just that. AU has not had a great passing qb to fit into the equation. Just as a running qb can make an offense go, if you have a qb that can complete a few down the the field that running game can come around. If the safeties and linebackers have to worry about the pass you have a more complete offense. Give Sean White time and he will end up being a great Auburn quarterback.

  2. Jason Wright says:

    I think White should have been the guy all along. He has proven he can put the ball in tight windows as well as stretch the field. But What Kerryon Johnson said is just as important as his numbers:
    “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.”

  3. spanky says:

    I like White. He is great. My worry is if(probably more like when) they switch to JFIII next year, White will transfer and we’ll be without a qb again.

    • If White continues to put up 200+ yards a game … That would be a very foolish move .

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      I don’t envision any time that JFIII will become the starter. It doesnt seem like it will happen this year, and the staff will probably be more likely to give Woody Barrett reps next year. And if Jarrett Stidham signs….

  4. mcleodbk says:

    I am pleasantly surprised with Sean White. Lashlee’s playcalling (or, Lashlee’s willingness to alter the offense to fit White’s strengths) has worked well thus far. I’m pumped to see how the season unfolds and am hopeful that Lashlee will continue to call good games as our schedule gets tougher following the upcoming Bye Week.

    I must say, I am still wary, and I am still pro-Dual-Threat-QB. The only good defense we have played with Lashlee/White is LSU, and, although we sustained several long drives, we failed to score a single TD and failed to reach 400 yds during that game. The real question is: was that offensive performance vs LSU a hiccup, or is there an inherent flaw in our red zone offense without a Dual Threat QB vs good defenses?

    I am not trying to be a contrarian. I’m simply trying to temper my personal expectations for this offense because it has only really succeeded vs subpar front 7’s (LAMO and Miss St) thus far. Some may argue that State has a solid defense, predicated upon a run defense that was highly ranked coming into the AU game. I would say that it’s important to remember that State accrued solid statistics vs the run by playing 3 of the worst running teams in the country–S Alabama (ranked #120), UMASS ranked #125), and S Carolina (ranked #126)–in their first 4 games. I would also say that State’s secondary is among the worst in the SEC.

    Bottom line: I’m thrilled with Lashlee and White, but I’m going to wait and see how we fare in the coming weeks against better competition before I decide that this offense can work without a Dual Threat QB.

    I tend to overreact to both the good and the bad (which is dangerous as an AU fan), so this is me actively fighting that temptation. War Eagle.

    • greyfox says:

      100% agree. This is a copy-paste from a September 11 comment after we waxed ArkSt:

      “Auburn fans are hilarious. Stop riding roller coasters based on scores. This is the same team that scored 13 against Clemson. We still have an abysmal SEC record since LSU 2014. SW wasn’t named the outright starter after an entire offseason bc he is about 10% off across the board: size, strength, speed, quickness, accuracy, decision-making, etc. Give him a full half against an SEC defense to see what we’ve always seen from him. I’m sure we can win games this year if he manages to not get hurt, but it will be on the backs of our excellent defense and special teams. No one who’s seen Malzahn’s success (and failure) patterns in the last 7 years should be fooled right now. It all starts with the line, and from where I sit, we have some serious issues. Give all 5 of those guys simple assignments with strong emphasis on precision and execution, and they will excel. Make Leff and Golson give SW more than three seconds against an SEC West front 7? No way. Until proven wrong, we’re headed for a more palatable version of 2015 due to a more mature defense and a more desperate head coach. The years we all love to remember with Malzahn calling the offense were built on running the football. As long as SW is in the game, we will not be successful running the football. Period. And until I see it, I won’t believe that Malzahn and his glorified GA OC can actually coach a QB and OL to succeed at scoring TDs when passing is a must.”

      I maintain my position. State has a miserable defense this year. Our OL absolutely paved their front 7, which doesn’t happen simply bc they were shuffled around a bit and are “meshing”. BTW, UMass’s offense scored more than ours against Mississippi State. Mass scored 35 on State, besting the SUM of their first three games (7 vs Fla, 7 vs BC, and 13 vs FIU) by more than a touchdown.

      I’m going to continue posting this until people wake up and start thinking about football instead of reacting. Unfortunately, that won’t happen until we lose and you all come here to complain. Use your brain.

      War Eagle.

      • WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

        I respect your opinion but since after half the season Auburn Is The SEC's No.2 Rushing Team you might want to Strike the following sentence from the next time you copy and paste this comment: "As long as SW is in the game, we will not be successful running the football. Period."

        • dyingculture dyingculture says:

          …. and if we defeat Arkansas next game, then the response to that is, “well, look at how Bama dismantled Arkansas”. And the game after that, if we defeat Ole Miss, then the response to that will be “oh, but look at how the Ole Miss defense collapsed against Florida State”. And if we defeat Georgia, “well, everyone knows Georgia isn’t that good this year”. So, the beauty of that argument is that Auburn likely won’t face a “real” defense until the Iron Bowl.

          • cmatt90 says:

            Arkansas is a legit team with a defense that’s at least mid-tier in the SEC. Mississippi State is not. The vast majority of our rushing yards came against AK St., Louisiana Monroe, and a M. St. team that lost to South Alabama and gave up 35 points to UMass. Against the decent defenses we’ve played the only ok day we had rushing was against A&M with 236, and 50 of those yards were Franklin and 25 more from RBs while Franklin was in the game. We gained 154 against LSU (ok, but not game-changing) and 84 (!) on Clemson. In contrast, we racked up our stats with Ak. State (462 yards rushing) and ULM (410). Those 1000 yards are basically meaningless.

            I hope as much as anybody that the offense has turned it around and that White’s the guy, but unless we beat Arkansas and Georgia and at least one of Ole Miss and Alabama, I’m not going to be very satisfied with this season. Miss. St. was a solid game, and I was impressed with White. But we need more evidence before we assume a White-led offense can compete with top-tier SEC teams, that’s all anyone’s saying.

  5. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    I must say, I can't believe it took Gus and Rhett this long to figure the QB situation out. Its almost like they knew White was the guy they should go with but they were hoping JJ or JFIII would step and take the job from him. White has proven he deserves to be the starter and more importantly that we can move the football without playing voodoo football.

    This is the way you are supposed to play big boy football. Run the ball right at the defense and knock them off the ball and when they load the box, you make them pay through the air. Our O Line is not very athletic but they are tough and strong and can run block against anybody as long as they aren't having to block 8 guys in the box.

    As long as White continues to take what the defense gives him and doesn't make stupid decisions with the football, I don't see him being supplanted as starter until someone can do a better job AND CAN RUN THE ZONE READ. JFIII aint that guy…at least not from what I see.

    I do believe its ridiculous not to get him more involved in the offense. I would much rather see him getting the ball on the jet sweeps, bubble screens and wildcat (if we have to run that god-awful scheme). He is a major asset, if we can get him in open space to make plays. At worst he would be a major distaction for the defense. Imagine lining him up outside and faking a bubble screen to him while the "blocking" reciever, bolts down field!

    In any event, I like our trajectory (pointing up!) and if we utilize our talent effectively I don't many teams giving us a game. Alas, that is still a work in progress, so I'll be happy with improvement from game to game. Arkansas will really show us where we stand.

  6. I’d love to see JF3 used as a RB on toss sweeps, or jet sweeps, with a run pass option. Defenses would flip out trying to defend that formation. But White should never come off the field, he’s too good a passer and leader to take out of the game.

  7. el757 says:

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here. Y’all, Sean White can run. Sure he’s no Cam or Nick or JFIII when he runs but he’s a million times better than JFIII at throwing the ball and a billion times better than Nick at throwing. All Auburn needs is a QB that can scramble and pick-up healthy yardage when the play breaks down and Sean can do that.

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      I get the sense that the staff might be trying to protect him, though. He looks awfully small out there and they might be afraid of him getting hurt again like last year.

  8. JRoweMDN says:

    Not only can white scramble he has also learned to protect himself better when he does it. I worried about him injuring himself trying to be NM in a scheme not built for him. Hats off to the coaching staff for building to his strengths. This is a scrappy offense that is moving in the right direction with a D that is firing on all cylinders while they learn.

    • He can be effective as a scrambler, and I absolutely believe he is the best QB Auburn has, but we all can see JF3 has elite speed. He’s faster than Cam or NM were, I bet he’s faster than McCaleb was, so that’s an amazing weapon to have which should be utilized somehow.

      • JRoweMDN says:

        I hope they are working on a way to get JF3 into the offense. After watching his runs, it is clear he is the fastest guy on the field most of the time. We know he is disruptive to defenses to have to think about. Not looking for gimmick plays but turning him into a speed sweep guy or something to get him the ball with just a little bit of space where he can turn on the afterburners.

  9. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Put JF3 in the slot and let him have the ball.

  10. cmatt90 says:

    I’m with mcleodbk. White was very impressive against M St and two very bad teams. I do feel much better about him after the M St game, but M St lost to South Alabama and gave up 35 points to Massachusetts. I’m happy with how White’s progressing, I didn’t think he had it in him. But until we score consistently against a bowl team I’m going to reserve a bit of judgment. Arkansas is that test, so we won’t have to wait long.

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      The thing I like best about White this year is the team really does seem to be starting to respond to him as a leader. Or maybe that’s just me. After this game, I was thinking that he’s only a sophomore so his leadership attributes will only get even better.

  11. neonbets says:

    Three weeks ago, and Auburn fans were split pretty evenly about White. Even many of those who wanted him as the starter had reservations about his ability as a top flight starter. And now, we’re talking about him as being one of the best QBs in the SEC? And this on the basis of his last 3 games–one of which included Louisiana Monroe.

    C’mon…it’s way to early for these kinds of proclamations. If you can’t wait until the end of the year, at least wait until he gets past Ole Miss.

  12. AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

    Glad to see Sean White having success. I can’t help but wonder what might have been last year had he not been hurt. Auburn might have won a couple more games and he might have broken Stan White’s 200 plus yards freshman record. Here’s to hoping Lashlee keeps calling the right plays and the receivers keep making the grabs. War Eagle!

  13. […] Lashlee fluid play calling has helped Sean White look like a top-tier SEC quarterback in the past few weeks, as the sophomore QB has done all that he’s been asked to do […]

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  15. […] appeared to be marching toward a possible Sugar Bowl date. To make matters worse, quarterback, Sean White reinjured his throwing shoulder against the Dogs and running backs, Stanton Truitt and Chandler Cox […]

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