May 24, 2019 (Akademos, Inc.)
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  A-Day Review

Itís unanimous ó the hype surrounding Jarrett Stidham has peaked. The Baylor quarterback transfer has now played in front of Tiger fans ó and it was for only one half in a spring game óbut holy cow.

Fans havenít heard much about Stidham leading up to the game except that heís talented. Then everyone saw him slice and dice the Tigersí second-team defense in the first half of Auburnís annual A-Day game on April 8. He threw for 267 yards on 16-for- 20 passing in the first-teamís 34-13 win. Stidhamís performance included four competitions of 40-plus yards. He also added a rushing touchdown, which came on a fumble recovery.

Stidhamís ability to throw the deep ball accurately showed early when he hit Nate Craig-Myers on a 40-yard gain with his second pass of the afternoon. And while Stidham continued making completions in tight windows, Craig-Myers had quite an afternoon, as well.

The sophomore wideout who has also had hype dating back to National Signing Day two years ago had a team-leading 154 receiving yards on five receptions. His 30.8 yards-per- catch average showed Craig-Myers is a serious threat downfield. But heís not the only one. Auburnís depth at receiver that was hyped last year has seemed to show this spring.

In the spring game, Darius Slayton had a 46-yard reception for the first team and second-teamer Marquis McClain and quarterback Devin Adams linked up for a 69-yard touchdown late in the game. Will Hastings had a 33-yard catch and run, and he also had a team-high seven receptions.

There hasnít been much heard out of Auburnís two running backs this spring, with Kam Pettway being injured since last year. He sat out the spring and scrimmage while recovery from an injury last season. Kerryon Johnson, who has been healthy, suffered a high ankle sprain on the second drive of the game. Fortunately, both players will have the needed time for recovery before this fall.

Johnson, before being hurt in the spring game, recorded a team-high 47 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. The rest of the rushing yards were pretty scattered. Malik Miller, who was injured for most of last season, had a total of 42 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. C.J. Tolbert, who has had a great spring and is competing for the third-string spot, scored a touchdown and had 26 rushing yards and Kam Martin had a total of 30 yards.

Though Stidham stole the show, he wasnít the only QB who impressed. Freshman Malik Willis, who split time between the first and second teams, dazzled in his debut. For the first team, Willis threw for 111 yards on 8-for- 12 passing, and he was 3-for- 6 for 46 yards for the second team.

Defensively, the biggest question entering the offseason is who would replace players lost up front. One answer, in the form of Paul James III, was provided. The JUCO transfer missed most of last year with knee surgery, but heís now making an impressive push for the buck position, formerly held by Carl Lawson.

James was named the defensive MVP, recording four tackles (3 for loss) and a sack. Statistics for the defense werenít as impressive, but defensive coordinator Kevin Steele told media members after the scrimmage that heís more concerned with effort than numbers.

The first-team defense performed well on third downs, holding the second stringers on third down 6 of 7 times in the first half, forcing 4 of 6 possessions to end in punting.

Lastly, and not surprising, kicker Daniel Carlsonís quiet offseason transitioned to his usual performance in the spring game. Kicking for both teams, Carlson was a perfect 5-for- 5 on field goals, including nailing a 55-yarder. He also punted six times, averaging 43.8 yards per punt. His longest punt was 51 yards.

Spring games often mean only as much as you make them. They are a glorified scrimmage. But they can also answer needed question. And they surely get fans excited about what could be in the fall. Auburn had a little of all those things April 8. For how things will look against Georgia Southern on Sept. 2 is unknown, but everyone is surely already counting down the days until kickoff.


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