Auburn Tigers Season Hinges on Quarterback

Auburn Tigers Season Hinges on Quarterback
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 28: Joey Gatewood #13 of the Auburn Tigers is tackled at the goal line by Kamal Hardy #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half at Nissan Stadium on December 28, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Today, we look at how the Auburn Tigers season hinges on quarterback. The Tigers are plentiful when it comes to talent. Actually, the Tigers are one of the most talented teams not just in the Southeastern Conference, but the entire country. They have a talented group of young receivers, a much-improved offensive line, and one of the best defensive fronts in all of college football.

All that is great but the success in 2019 hinges on the most important position in all of sports. That is the quarterback position. If Gus Malzahn and the coaching staff get this right, it could mean title contention. But if they get this one wrong it could spell disaster and put Malzahn back on the hot seat.

Who Left?

Despite having another year of eligibility remaining Jarrett Stidham decided he had done all he can at Auburn and left for the NFL. Stidham was drafted by the New England Patriots at pick 133 in the fourth round. In future years it will be interesting to see how Stidham will be remembered by the Auburn faithful. Stidham had a two-year career with plenty of highs and lows that included winning 2017 SEC Newcomer of the Year.

Malik Willis was looked at as the next guy in line to be the signal-caller for Malzahn. It made sense with Willis fitting the typical role in the fast-paced Auburn attack. To many fans, Willis brought back memories of Nick Marshall with his playing style. The thought process was when Stidham leaves, the read-option would be back at full force. However, during the spring it was evident Willis was not going to be able to overtake the other two guys in a very heated quarterback competition. In May, Willis announced he would be entering the transfer portal. As of this writing, he has not landed with another program.

Auburn Tigers Season Hinges on Quarterback

Joey Gatewood has only attempted three passes in college football action. Between him and Bo Nix that’s all the passing attempts they have. Gatewood looks the part to run the show for Malzahn. Actually, he looks very similar to the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The redshirt freshman is a 6-5 233-pound dual-threat quarterback that will strike fear into SEC defenses when he does decide to run with the ball. Do not sleep on Gatewood’s arm though. In the spring game, he went 8 of 12 for 130 yards with two touchdowns.

If a poll was taken asking Auburn fans who do you want as the quarterback this season the winner would most likely be Bo Nix. Why do you ask? Well, Auburn is in his blood. His dad, Patrick Nix, quarterbacked the Tigers in 1994 and 1995 as the full-time starter. The elder Nix also coached his son, Bo, to two consecutive Alabama 6A State Championships at Pinson Valley High School. The last of those championships came at Jordan-Hare Stadium, so Bo is familiar to playing winning football at Pat Dye Field. Bo Nix broke several Alabama state records including total touchdowns with 161.

Who Should Start Game One?

Usually, when a team is breaking in a new and inexperienced quarterback the ideal situation is playing a team that is a much lesser opponent. That way both players get quality first half reps for the coaching staff to see how each one does in an actual game. However, Auburn does not get that luxury to kick off the 2019 season. Auburn will meet up with the Oregon Ducks on August 31st at AT&T Stadium. The Ducks feature one of the top quarterback prospects in Justin Herbert and will be one of the favorites to win the Pac-12.

The player that makes the most sense will be Gatewood. Gatewood has just been in the system longer and gives Auburn that element of the run more than Nix can. Nix can be an effective runner, just not at the potential that Gatewood has. Picking the correct quarterback for the opener is very crucial because Auburn cannot afford to start slow with the gauntlet of games set in SEC play.

Check out this week’s Cover Two with Phillip Jordan Podcast:

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