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Jarrett Stidham on returning in 2018

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Jarrett Stidham on returning in 2018: Auburn 'on the ledge of making that next step as a program'

Updated Jan 10, 6:21 PM; Posted Jan 10, 6:25 PM

By Tom Green

tgreen@al.com

Jarrett Stidham treated his decision to return to Auburn the same way he treated his decision to leave Baylor after the 2015 season.

The Auburn quarterback, who announced last week he would return to school in 2018 instead of declare early for the NFL Draft, discussed his decision-making process on Wednesday during an interview on ESPN radio's "You Make the Call" in Waco, Texas.

"I had to put the pros and cons like I did with transferring from Baylor," Stidham said. "I looked at the pros and cons of both, and honestly, I felt like our team this year, we were really close to where we wanted to be. I mean, we were one game away from playing Oklahoma in the playoff, and so on and so forth. It is what it is, but I feel like the team was right there on the ledge of making that next step as a program."

In his first year as Auburn's quarterback, Stidham guided the Tigers to a 10-4 record, an SEC West division title, New Year's Six bowl game and a top-10 ranking to close the season. Auburn beat rivals Georgia and Alabama at home during the regular season after both teams came to Jordan-Hare Stadium undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but the Tigers lost a rematch with the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game with a CFP berth on the line and then lost to undefeated UCF in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1.

Last week, following a three-day hunting trip in the "middle of nowhere" north of the Mexican border, Stidham cited "unfinished business" as the main reason he wanted to return for at least one more season instead of turning pro.

"I still want to give this team everything I have, give the coaches everything I have," Stidham said. "I can improve as a player and try to finish some business, really. It's just, in the SEC it's a really tough league, and like I said, I thought we were really, really close this year. Sure enough, I decided to come back, and we're going to obviously get back to work and see what we can do."

Grading Auburn's quarterbacks for the 2017 season

The first in a 10-part series grading Auburn's performance by position during the 2017-18 season.

Stidham, who won the starting job during fall camp, completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions while adding another four touchdowns rushing. He finished tied for sixth nationally in completion percentage and was 19th among all qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating (150.99).

The redshirt sophomore also became just the second quarterback in Auburn history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season, joining Dameyune Craig in that club.

Following the Tigers' Peach Bowl loss to UCF, Stidham said there was a lot he could improve on during the offseason. He struggled with turnovers late in the year, losing a fumble in each of Auburn's final four games and committing three turnovers in the Peach Bowl.

"First of all, we're blessed to have him," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said during a radio appearance in Houston on Wednesday. "He was an inexperienced guy; there was a lot of expectations early. He grew, he got better and better. Played his best football, probably against Georgia and Alabama when we had them at home. I think he's in a great spot. He's a hard-worker.

"He wants to protect the football better; there's a lot of different things he thinks he can improve on. That's exciting. He's the leader of our team, and I think we're in good hands with his leadership."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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