Auburn quarterback Woody Barrett needs to get comfortable in a hurry if he plans on competing for the starting job this spring.
The freshman redshirted this season with an eye on challenging returning starter Sean White.
Barrett now faces an added hurdle with the Tigers bringing in high-profile Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham into the mix.
“When you give him a challenge, he’s going to want to do it,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said of Barrett leading up to the Sugar Bowl. “I firmly believe if you put him out there right now, he believes in his mind that he could be the greatest quarterback to come through college. You have to like that about him. He’s a guy who’s very confident.”
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Johnson praised Barrett’s cannon of an arm, but acknowledged the first-year quarterback is still adjusting to the college game.
The added practice time in December and January should help.
“Woody did good things,” former Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “We let our young guys play (in bowl practices). Woody took predominantly all of those reps, and that's almost like an extra spring ball for those guys.”
Barrett was one of four quarterbacks that worked on the scout team as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield when Auburn transitioned to game prep.
Before Lashlee left for UConn, the assistant was optimistic those 10 to 12 extra practices would “speed up” Barrett’s development.
Barrett had to make up lost time from an ankle injury that sidelined him through much of fall camp. He also was at a disadvantage as one of the last freshman in the 2016 class to arrive on campus.
“You have to keep in mind, he got here the first day of fall camp,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said earlier this season. “He wasn’t here in the summer then he had an ankle injury that held him out for about three weeks to a month. He’s going to be a real good player for us. It was somewhere long after that injury.”
The biggest splash Barrett made in his first year on the Plains was with a long since deleted midseason tweet.
"Preparation is key," Barrett tweeted. "I've been Patient enough. Now it's my time. Blessings, and faith #1 #InWoodyBWeTrust"
The timing of the tweet — the morning after a 13-7 loss to Georgia — raised speculation Barrett could be an option to replace injured quarterback Sean White. The coaching staff didn’t waste any time putting those rumors to bed.
“Woody is redshirting,” Lashlee said. “Woody is a great kid. His tweet was in regards to next year. Sometimes people don’t understand how things are portrayed. There was nothing to that.”
The former 4-star prospect came to Auburn out of West Orange High School in Florida with high expectations.
Barrett accounted for 80-percent of his team’s offense as junior and senior. The dual-threat prospect led his team to the semifinals with 3,700-total yards and 43 touchdowns.
“He’s always reminded us of Cam Newton,” West Orange coach Bob Head said. “Auburn truly has the offense that’s suited to him.”