With the recent news of junior quarterback Seth Russell being out for the season, head coach Art Briles turns to true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
In his first few months of playing college football, Stidham has now vaulted from backup to starting quarterback of the No. 6 team in the country.
In response, Baylor defensive players have spoken out about Stidham.
Baylor’s defense has forced 18 turnovers in seven contests, and it will need the same type of effort if the Bears hope to make it into the College Football Playoff.
The defense is aware of the challenge ahead with Stidham finishing out the season for the Bears with what experts are calling the seventh toughest remaining schedule in the nation.
While the defense is aiming to improve its production, they are confident in the freshman’s ability.
“Jarrett’s a great quarterback and he’s a great decision maker,” sophomore linebacker Taylor Young said. “If things aren’t really open for him, he [makes good decisions]. He doesn’t play like a freshman; he plays at a high level.”
Members of the defense said they would have to elevate their level of intensity through the final part of the season, but not because Stidham is incapable of leading Baylor to a national championship.
Young said the team is facing the toughest stretch in the Big 12, and everyone will have to bring their “A” game each week.
“Everybody in our locker room knows that [Stidham] is a confident guy,” Young said. “Nothing is too big for him. Everybody knows he’s going to come out and [be fine]. So we just have to go out and take care of business.”
Sophomore nickelback Travon Blanchard said the poise and swagger that Stidham has is remarkable.
It was obvious how good Stidham was from the moment he threw a football, Blanchard said.
Blanchard said he expects Stidham to lead the team to a national title.
“He has a nice little swagger to him and I personally like it,” Blanchard said. “He’s not a boastful person, but the way he carries himself, he knows what he’s capable of doing, and on the field he can back it up.”
Even with the enormous trust in Stidham, the Baylor defense said the goal will be to take pressure off of the first-year player.
“As a defense, we’re all going to have to step up and improve the way we’ve been playing,” Blanchard said. “We’re going to step up and make sure we don’t put the game on his back. Offense isn’t guaranteed to put up points every game so we have to be prepared for a defensive game where we have to.”
Young said Stidham competed for the starting quarterback job in the offseason and has continued to improve as the season has gone on.
The most impressive part about Stidham is that he is a natural pocket passer, the linebacker said.
“Jarrett’s not cocky, he’s just confident in his own ability. He knows how good he is; he doesn’t go around bragging about it, but he shows it on the field.”
Head coach Art Briles is also assured of Stidham’s skill level and said that no changes would be made to the team’s expectations after losing Russell.
“I’ve been coaching 37 years and I’d be totally shocked if [Stidham’s] not very composed, very competitive, very intelligent, and very on cue, with everything he does Thursday for our football team,” Briles said. “You go by what you’ve seen and what you feel, and what you’ve been subjected to. He’s a ready quarterback, and that’s the way we look at it.”
Stidham will get a chance to showcase his talent on Thursday, when the Bears take on Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. at 6:30 p.m.