By Charles Goldberg
NEW ORLEANS — Before the shoulder injury, before he was sidelined, Sean White led the Southeastern Conference in passing efficiency.
A couple of months later, he says he's back.
The Auburn quarterback says his shoulder feels fine, that he's making all the throws, and that he'll be ready to go in Monday night's Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. White hasn't thrown pass in a game since Nov. 12, and hasn't thrown a pass when he's been completely healthy since the early stages of the Ole Miss game Oct. 29.
White said he felt better when the Tigers reported to bowl practice in the middle of December and is good to go. The Sugar Bowl will give him an opportunity to show off his passing again and to finish the season on a high note.
"I don't think I've played a great game yet, what I would consider a great game," he said Saturday. "I'm ready for the Sugar Bowl because I feel really good and feel like I've practiced well and that we've practiced well. I'm just confident we'll have a good game.
"More than anything," White said, he'll measure success if "the team does well and we're winning."
Plus, White said a Sugar Bowl win would be a good springboard into next season.
"If you play well in the Sugar Bowl, you're going to create a lot of momentum, not only for me, but the whole team going into the spring," he said.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said White has "had a couple of good days the last few days."
"There’s no question we were playing well in the middle of the year when he had pretty good balance offensively. We were very efficient throwing the football. Right before he got hurt, Sean was leading the league in efficiency rating, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio, yards per completion — a lot of good categories. He got hurt, and the whole last couple of games we were very poor in the passing game. So, that’s something we’re going to have to do well in a couple of days — just keep the balance that allowed us to be successful when we were playing well."
White was playing well before his initial shoulder injury, and then compounded the problem when he was hit hard early in the Georgia game.
"Injuries are part of the game," he said. "You want to be 100 percent, but sometimes you can’t. I wanted to be out there with my teammates, maybe to a fault in the Georgia. At the same time, I just wanted to be out there playing for my teammates. I love playing, I genuinely do. You have to fight through it especially in the SEC playing big, tough defenses every week. You are going to have some nicks and bruises."
That was then. Now, "I feel healthy again. I'm just excited to go out there and play for my teammates and feel good. I feel 100 percent."
Auburn quarterback Sean White says his injured shoulder is better and he feels great heading to the Sugar Bowl. Watch the video... pic.twitter.com/L8tRZqKHvz
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) December 31, 2016
Auburn scored one touchdown against Georgia as White tried to play through the pain. The Tigers didn't have a touchdown against Alabama without him two weeks later. Auburn led the SEC in total offense until the injuries slowed White.
Auburn doesn't have to wing it against the Sooners. The Tigers led the SEC in rushing behind Kamryn Pettway, who also dealt with an injury late in the season; and Kerryon Johnson, who was slowed by an ankle injury in multiple games.
Still, Johnson needs 119 yards in the Sugar Bowl to join Pettway as a 1,000-yard rusher.
"We have two great running backs in Kerryon and Pettway, and great playmakers on the outside," White said. "I feel like it's my job to get them the ball in the right position so they can make plays and, at the same time, make some myself when they're there. I'd say that's my role.
"I think we have to be balanced. I think that's when we're at our best. Would I love to go out and throw it every play? Yes. I'm a quarterback and that's my strength. But, at the same time what's best for our team, the strength of our team is definitely with Pettway and Kerryon, and our great offensive line."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine