In the wake of Sean White’s dismissal from the program, Malik Willis has become the backup quarterback for the Auburn Tigers.
Willis, an early enrollee last spring, is a freshman in his first full season with the team. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said that in a “perfect world," Willis would receive a redshirt, but due to the dismissal of Sean White, that is no longer possible.
Should starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham sustain an injury this season, Willis will take over.
“If it's a long-term injury, Malik Willis will be the next guy in," Malzahn said. "Malik's ready and Malik, like I've said before, has impressed us numerous times and he's got a lot of practice reps. I think he'll be ready to go if called upon if there's an injury.”
Willis was a three-star recruit coming out of Roswell High School in Georgia. His senior year he passed for 2,562 yards, rushed for 1033 yards and accounted for 37 total touchdowns his senior year.
The dual-threat quarterback has been with the team since last spring, and although he has never played in a collegiate game, Willis did find success in last year’s spring game. He finished with a stat line of 11-18 for 157 yards, with five passes of 15 or more yards.
“I just see him having a great career here," wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers said following Auburn's 2017 spring game. "He’s a guy who is going to make plays with his feet and also his arm.”
The freshman quarterback has drawn comparisons to former Auburn star Nick Marshall, due to his unique ability to run and pass at an equally high level. Willis currently touts Marshall's infamous jersey No. 14.
“It’s creepy because he really does remind everyone of Nick Marshall," Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson said. "He’s such a smooth quarterback and the thing with Malik is, he just has supreme confidence in himself.”
Ahead of Auburn's SEC opener at Missouri, the redshirt of Willis has yet to be burned. Malzahn and the Auburn staff are hesitant, and plan to use careful judgment regarding the freshman phenom.
"We'll see how each game unfolds," Malzahn said. "He's gotten all the No. 2 reps, really, the whole season."
Earlier in the week, Malzahn announced that wideout Ryan Davis, the SEC's leader in receptions this season with 19, will take over at the No. 3 QB spot behind Willis. Like Willis, Davis boasts an impressive high school stat sheet under center. Walk-on freshman Devin Adams, who played a few snaps against Georgia Southern, rounds out the quarterback carousel.