Jarrett Stidham had plenty of memorable moments, both good and bad, during his two years at Auburn. Auburn fans must now move on from the now NFL quarterback.
The Auburn QB battle is ongoing and as each day passes without an official starter being announced, Tiger fans' worries begin to build.
In early May, head coach Gus Malzahn narrowed the previously four-man competition to two, but subpar performances and injuries happen so it’s more than useful to breakdown Auburn’s 2019 core of signal callers.
A highly touted dual-threat 2018 recruit out of Jacksonville, Florida, Gatewood arrived on The Plains and instantly received comparisons to former Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
Those comparisons derive from Gatewood’s large stature (6-foot-5. 233 pounds) but like Newton, Gatewood’s running ability makes him a weapon, especially in a Gus Malzahn offense that has thrived with dual-threat quarterbacks able to execute the run-pass option.
Gatewood spent 2018 as the Tigers' third-string quarterback but has entered 2019 as one of the two finalists for the starting job.
Auburn coaches have been impressed with Gatewood’s maturity and passing improvements between his true freshman and redshirt freshman year — both of which were question marks entering the spring.
Gatewood has a rocket arm, strong dual-threat ability and elite size at the quarterback position. Also, the redshirt freshman has one additional year of experience in Auburn’s system than his competitor, Bo Nix.
The former top 50 recruit had a strong showing during Auburn’s spring game as he completed 8 of 12 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. However, due to the unique no contact rules placed on quarterbacks on A-Day, Gatewood was unable to truly showcase his running ability.
The other quarterback still in the battle to be the starter for the 2019 season-opener, true freshman Bo Nix comes to Auburn as perhaps the most hyped quarterback recruit in recent memory.
A five-star prospect and the top ranked dual-threat prospect in the nation according to 247 Sports, Nix comes to Auburn as an Under Armour All-American, Alabama Gatorade player of the year and the Alabama state record holder for total career offensive yards.
To add to the hype, Nix’s father, Patrick, was a two-year starter at quarterback for Auburn in the mid-90s.
At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Nix has solid size. Deadly accurate and efficient, Nix is capable of making throws other quarterbacks can only dream of. Not only that, Nix is also excellent at extending plays with his feet and scrambling when the opportunity presents itself.
On A-Day, Nix completed 11 of 17 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Nix also added three rushes for 16 yards but was also the only Auburn QB to throw an interception during the spring game.
Football wasn’t Sandberg’s first option. The Bradenton, Florida native was a third-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2013 MLB draft. Sandberg played six seasons with the Phillies minor league system before returning to give football another shot in 2018.
Sandberg, already 24 years old, spent 2018 as a reserve quarterback, appearing in one game before redshirting.
The former minor league outfielder was accurate and efficient during Auburn’s spring game, throwing for 53 yards on an 8-of-9 clip.
Sandberg was a four-star QB prospect coming out of high school and had committed to play football at Mississippi State before choosing baseball.
However, at 24 years old and already having six years of being a professional athlete under his belt, Sandberg, despite being only a redshirt freshman, will provide a veteran presence in the Tiger locker room while also serving as a backup quarterback with a strong arm.
Jarrett Stidham’s backup for the past two years, Willis, a junior from Atlanta, will try to take his talents elsewhere after entering the NCAA transfer portal last week.
Despite Willis' strong showing on A-Day in which the 6-foot-1, 193-pound quarterback completed 9 of 10 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown, Malzahn decided to go with Nix and Gatewood for the start of 2019.
Despite the ups and downs of the Jarrett Stidham era of Auburn football, Malzahn enters the 2019 season returning to play-calling duties with a group of talented, albeit largely inexperienced group of signal callers.
Whether it’s Gatewood or Nix who end up getting the start in August against Oregon, expect the dual-threat abilities of those two freshmen to gel better with a traditional Malzahn offensive system than Stidham ever did.
As is the case with freshmen quarterbacks, mistakes are bound to be made.
It likely won’t be perfect right away, but if fans can stay patient and optimistic, the Tigers have the chance to have something special behind center.