Just prior to last week’s football game against Kansas State, a close friend asked me if I thought true freshman QB Jarrett Stidham was capable of handling the pressure of starting in such a big game. Without hesitation, I answered, “Absolutely!” The confidence I felt in answering that question was not based solely on Jarrett’s physical skills or his advanced football IQ, it was also based on my own personal experience as a player.
After beginning the 1978 season with five straight losses, our team, led by the legendary Coach Grant Teaff, faced 12th ranked Texas A&M. An upset over the Aggies seemed nearly impossible as the Aggies featured the #2 defense in the country as well as the top-ranked offense in the Southwest Conference. The coaches had planned to redshirt me that year, but a series of injuries at the running back position forced them to remove my redshirt and put me into the game midway through the second quarter.
As history would have it, we defeated the Aggies 24-6 on that sunny October day, and I would go on to set a school rushing record with 207 yards, establishing an NCAA rushing record for a freshman in a first game. Of course, my success at Kyle Field was enhanced by the remarkable performance by our offensive line, anchored by senior linemen David Sledge, Arland Thompson, Keith Bishop, Ron Barnes, and junior lineman Billy Glass, Jr.
Similarly, it was an injury that forced Jarrett Stidham to start the game against Kansas State, and likewise, he led his team to an away-game victory behind an offensive line that is second to none. In his first game as a starter, Jarrett completed 23 of 33 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. That was more passing yards than his predecessor Seth Russell had compiled in any of his previous seven starts.
It is important that we do not expect perfection from Jarrett. As a true freshman, he will make freshmen mistakes. I made them. Every freshman player makes them. It is a natural part of a player’s growth and development. But I improved at each practice and in every game. The same can be expected of Jarrett. He will be a better quarterback this week than he was a week ago. Not only will his mechanics and understanding of the game improve, timing with his receivers will improve as well. Most importantly, he will approach every football meeting, practice, and game in the frame of mind of a starter and not that of a backup player.
So, can true freshman QB Jarrett Stidham handle the pressure of his new starting role in the Baylor offense? From my perspective, I say again, “Absolutely!” I’ve been there.
Executive Director, Baylor “B” Association