Scouting the Tigers

Thomas Jilk

As the No. 12 team in the 2017 AP preseason top 25, Auburn will have to prove itself worthy of that ranking after going 8-5 last season and finishing at No. 24 in the final 2016 AP poll.

Transfer at the Helm

Jarrett Stidham, the 21-year-old true sophomore, was the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback recruit in the country coming out of high school.

He started as a freshman at Baylor, tossing 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. Infamously, Baylor was deeply embroiled in a wide-ranging sexual assault controversy that resulted in the exits of head coach Art Briles and university president Ken Starr.

Stidham then transferred to junior college in 2016 and finally decided to play at Auburn for his sophomore campaign. ESPN’s college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has said Stidham “fits in perfectly” with coach Gus Malzahn’s offense because he is “very athletic” and is a legitimate running threat.

Look for Stidham to lean on junior running back Kamryn Pettway, who rushed for 136 yards per game last season on almost six yards per carry.

He will likely use the play-action fake to Pettway to try to open up targets downfield including speedy receivers Kyle Davis and Ryan Davis.

Tenacious Defense

In its second year under coordinator Kevin Steele, Auburn’s defense will look to improve upon a No. 28 national ranking in total defense last season.

A troubling statistic for Eagle fans may be the fact that Auburn had a streak of eight consecutive games last season without allowing a rushing touchdown.

They have playmakers at every level of the defense, starting with senior strong safety Tray Matthews, their leading tackler last season. Junior corner Carlton Davis is opportunistic and will be looking to jump routes when GS decides to drop back to pass.

At linebacker, redshirt junior Deshaun Davis is the most experienced of the bunch, but there’s talent throughout the linebacking corps. Up front, sophomore defensive end Marlon Davidson returns after an SEC All-Freshman team selection last year.

Deafening Roar

Jordan-Hare Stadium, the 10th-largest on-campus stadium in the nation with a capacity of 87,451, will be packed and raucous for the season opener Saturday.

GS head coach Tyson Summers said, “We’ll get ready for some crowd noise …  to make sure that we put ourselves in an environment where they’ve got to over-communicate.”

Paulson Stadium gets loud, but its capacity pales in comparison to the SEC giant. The crowd in Auburn will certainly be a factor in play-calling, and it could impact momentum shifts during the game.