Players come and go through programs every year, and while it is expected that the veterans be the focal point of their team, newcomers play a vital role in a team’s success.
That being said, it would only be fair for the Southeastern Conference Newcomer of the Year Jarrett Stidham to be named the Plainsman's Choice for Newcomer of the Year.
Stidham transferred to Auburn after showing flashes of stardom is his freshman year at Baylor, when he threw for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns in three starts. Stidham’s arrival came at the right time for Auburn as the Tigers were one of the worst passing teams in the country ranking 112th out of 128 teams in the FBS in 2016.
As a newcomer, Stidham did not have instant success, as he did sit out a year from football to retain a year of eligibility. In only his second start at Auburn, Stidham was sacked 11 times in a loss to Clemson. In that loss, Stidham only completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 79 yards.
Stidham quickly bounced back the next week against Mercer, where he would have the second most efficient passing game in SEC history and finished 32-for-37 for 364 yards, at one point connecting on 18 consecutive passes, an Auburn record.
Riding the momentum from his historic day, Stidham would continue to dominate, completing 64.7 percent of his passes for just under 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns against SEC competition.
Stidham stepped up when Auburn needed him the most in the month of November as Auburn hit arguably the hardest stretch of games in school history. He would complete 73.5 percent of his passes for just under 1,000 yards and 10 total touchdowns in November, but most importantly wins over No. 1 teams Georgia and Alabama.
The former Texas native finished the season completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards – most since Dameyune Craig in 1997 -- and 22 total touchdowns while also leading Auburn to a 10-win SEC West division championship and an appearance in a New Year Six Bowl.
Coming in to a new program and putting up the historic stats is great, but the real difficulty is the assimilation to the team. Stidham displayed a knack for leadership even as the new kid on the block, a trait his teammates quickly picked up on.
"I think the biggest thing is his leadership," Auburn offensive lineman Austin Golson said. "Obviously, he makes a lot of plays. But when you're a quarterback you need to be a great leader, and he's a fantastic one."
After narrowly missing a playoff appearance, Stidham announced he had “unfinished business” and was coming back for another year.
- Desean Murray (Men's basketball)
- Malik Dunbar (Men's basketball)
- Unique Thompson (Women's basketball)