The Baylor football program received a major blow when sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham announced Thursday that he will leave the university.
Stidham was expected to compete with senior Seth Russell for the starting quarterback job in August.
“We talked this morning and he plans to enroll at a junior college and then find another school to play for,” Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe said. “He didn’t want to back up Seth Russell. When you have two good quarterbacks, it’s just hard sometimes for those guys to live together.”
Stidham said in his statement that it was a “difficult decision” and wished the best for his teammates and the Baylor football program in the future.
Stidham didn’t indicate what his future plans are, but Grobe said enrollment at McLennan Community College is a possibility. If Stidham attends a junior college and doesn’t play football this fall, he could transfer to a NCAA Division I school in 2017 and have three years of eligibility remaining.
The loss of Stidham will leave the Bears with two scholarship quarterbacks. Russell suffered a season ending neck injury in the seventh game last fall against Iowa State and missed the rest of the season. Russell underwent off-season surgery and was cleared for practice in the spring.
Backing up Russell is freshman Zach Smith from Grandview who enrolled at Baylor in the spring and went through drills.
“We hope to keep Seth healthy,” Grobe said. “But from a coaching standpoint, you want to have two good quarterbacks. Zach’s a really smart kid and he got a lot better as he went through spring drills. He’ll be a good backup who will learn a lot from Seth, but we certainly don’t want to have to throw him in there.”
Baylor’s third string quarterback is redshirt freshman walk-on Zack Bennema.
Stidham’s departure is the latest in the fallout of the Baylor football program after coach Art Briles was fired on May 26 in the wake of a sexual assault scandal that involved several players in his football program.
Several days after Briles’ firing, Stidham indicated that he was planning to stay at Baylor as he posted on his Instagram account:
“Can’t wait to get back on that grind tomorrow with my brothers. This year is going to be different than the rest in many ways, but either way we will make a statement to everyone. Excited for the opportunity God has presented this team with to overcome adversity and become even closer as a family. Stick with us Baylor nation, we got this.”
One of the top rated quarterbacks in the country at Stephenville High School, Stidham played as a true freshman for Baylor last season. He hit 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns with two interceptions in 10 games.
Following Russell’s injury, Stidham made his first start against Kansas State in the eighth game and threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in Baylor’s 31-24 win in Manhattan.
Stidham lost in his second start against Oklahoma and then went down with a season ending ankle injury in the first half against Oklahoma State. Chris Johnson stepped in and led the Bears to a 45-35 win.
Stidham didn’t play in the Bears’ final three games last season, including their 49-38 win over North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Johnson, who had moved back to receiver for spring drills, has left the program and is expected to transfer to the University of Houston for his final two seasons.
“Chris is a fantastic kid,” Grobe said. “We met with his dad and he was very concerned about his playing time. We couldn’t promise him a lot of playing time at quarterback and our wide receiver positions are so competitive.”
Grobe said the assistant coaches from Briles’ former staff are still on board and he believes they will work well together when practice begins in August.
“We haven’t spent much time together because it’s important for them to be with their families right now,” Grobe said. “I know they’re certainly in shock with Coach Briles gone, and I’m very understanding of that. But I’ve been very impressed with them.”