By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Whether it's a Saturday morning scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium or a Friday afternoon swimming pool basketball game with teammates, Jarrett Stidham plays to win.
"I'm a big competitor, really in anything," said Stidham, "It's just the nature of who I am."
The sophomore quarterback, who completed nearly 69 percent of his passes and threw 12 touchdown passes with two interceptions as a freshman at Baylor in 2015, is competing for Auburn's starting position.
"Anytime you have competition, I think it makes the room a lot better, overall," Stidham said. "Whether you're first-string, second, third. I think it's going to make everybody better."
Stidham understands that trust, from his teammates and coaches, must be earned.
"I'm still the new guy here," Stidham said. "I'm trying to step up and be a leader as fast as possible. It comes with time, to gain the trust of the guys on the team. But it's doing the little things that I think will hopefully stand out."
Those little things including encouraging his teammates during practices and workouts.
"I'm just trying to stay true to my personality," he said. "I just try to be a people person. Be a light in the room, whether we're in meetings or the weight room working out or on the field."
Rated the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback at Stephenville High School in Texas, Stidham says he's not ready to compare his running ability to two previous Gus Malzahn-coached Auburn greats.
"I'm comfortable with it," Stidham said. "I'm not going to be Cam Newton or Nick Marshall and take it 75 to the house. I'm probably going to get caught from behind. That's not my game. I like to run around a little bit, keep the defense honest."
Stidham ran for 29 touchdowns in his high school career. He threw for 80 while amassing 6,516 passing yards. At Baylor, Stidham averaged 11.6 yards per pass attempt, indicating a propensity to throw downfield, an element of Auburn's offense coordinator Chip Lindsey hopes to develop.
"Some of the similarities that (Coach Lindsey) has with what I've done at Baylor, some of the deeper passing game, it's been a lot of fun," Stidham said. "A lot of it, I've done before. Kind of, second nature with some of it. He brings a lot of excitement to the offensive room."
To command an offense, a quarterback needs to develop rhythm with his receivers and rapport with his linemen.
"The more practice you have with those guys, the better it's going to be with timing and with the routes," Stidham said. "So far, so good. Those guys really know how to play. I get them them the ball and let them do what they do."
"It all starts with them," Stidham said. "They don't necessarily get as much praise as they should. Everybody talks about receivers and running backs, quarterbacks. None of that can really happen without those guys. I just try to love on them as much as I can, encourage them. Just tell them they've done a great job so far and keep building every single day."
Auburn's coaches have said they will not rush a decision to name a starting quarterback, preferring to evaluate returning starter Sean White after he fully recovers from an arm injury.
Stidham, while welcoming the competition among each of Auburn's candidates, believes he will be able to make a compelling case for the position.
"Absolutely," Stidham said. "That's why I came here. I came here to get a great education from Auburn University and to be the starting quarterback for the Auburn Tigers."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) March 27, 2017
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) March 25, 2017
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) March 26, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer