By Greg Ostendorf
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The 2018 NFL draft wrapped up less than a week ago, and they’re already talking about next year’s draft. It could be a significant weekend for Auburn, especially given the three draft-eligible players on the defensive line. But there’s also been some first-round buzz surrounding quarterback Jarrett Stidham this week, too.
So how will Stidham handle the hype as he enters his junior season?
“Jarrett’s a very focused young man,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said, speaking before an AMBUSH event in Montgomery on Wednesday. “There were high expectations last year with everything. I know he’ll do everything in his power to help us take that next step as a program.
“There’s nothing better than experience in our league, and he has a full year under his belt, played against the best defenses in college football and played well. So I think he’s in a good spot. He’s going to be very driven. And he’s a team-first guy, anyway.”
The first order of business will be to get Stidham – who suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder this past season – back to 100 percent before summer workouts begin, though Malzahn says the Auburn quarterback is on track to return and will be “turned loose to do everything” when the Tigers go back to work.
That’s important given that Stidham is one of the team leaders.
“You’ve got to have your leaders in the summer,” Malzahn said. “He’s one of our team leaders. For him to be able to do everything, I think is very big. The coaches can only be with them two hours a week with football-related things, and the rest of the time, it’s your leaders.
“The fact that he has a year under his belt, he’s one of our team leaders, and to be ready in the summer, I think that’s going to be really big for us.”
Stidham is scheduled to graduate from Auburn this weekend.
It was a difficult spring in terms of injuries for Auburn this year. Not only was Stidham limited, but the Tigers had a number of players go down during practices or scrimmages.
However, Malzahn said Wednesday that he believes defensive back Jeremiah Dinson (shoulder), defensive lineman Daquan Newkirk (Achilles) and center Nick Brahms (leg) could all return in time to participate in fall camp, which is only three months away.
Fellow center Kaleb Kim is expected back even sooner and will likely participate in weights and conditioning this summer.
The two question marks remain at wide receiver with Eli Stove and Will Hastings. Both suffered torn ACLs during spring practice, and while the coaching staff is hopeful to get them back during the season, it’s too early to predict when either will return.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Malzahn said. “Once we get to July, we’ll know a little bit more with those two guys. The great thing about it is both of them have positive attitudes.”
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: