AUBURN, Alabama — The quarterback of Auburn's defense wasn't shy about heaping praise on the Tigers' actual quarterback following the first scrimmage of preseason camp Thursday.

Jarrett Stidham, the first 3,000-yard passer to return to Auburn for a second year, naturally had some rust to shake off after undergoing shoulder surgery (non-throwing shoulder) in January and not participating in spring practices.

Well, one would think he'd have some growing pains.

"If you could see the scrimmage, you would think he's practiced every day since the spring," middle linebacker Deshaun Davis said. "They made some big throws down field, protecting the back shoulder. He was very accurate today. He looked good in the pocket. I think we probably would've sacked him a couple times, but the coaches they were letting him get some downfield throws. When they were able to get the ball off, they were able to complete it. So hats off to those guys. On defense, we've got to play better, but the back shoulder throw in college football — or any level of football — is a hard throw to defend, and Jarrett can throw it perfectly."

Stidham is coming off a season in which he led the Southeastern Conference in completion percentage (66.5) while throwing for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions. He enters the upcoming season without two of his returning receivers due to major knee injuries (Eli Stove and Will Hastings), but a bevvy of freshmen are in line to potentially contribute immediately after stellar starts to preseason camp, including the Tigers' 100-play scrimmage Thursday inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"I thought I did all right," Stidham said, in his aww-shucks demeanor. "Obviously some things to work on. But I thought for the first day collectively as a unit, I thought we did some really good things. We made some really positive plays down the field. We're trying to see these running backs, and they took care of the ball, so that was really good to see. I thought the offensive line played really well, so it was really good. Obviously, our defense is our defense, and they're going to be lights out just about every single day, so it was good to go up against them finally and get some good reps."

Stidham was forced to sit out all 11-on-11 drills during the spring as he rehabilitated surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Rumors swirled about a severe back injury and a broken wrist during the offseason and preseason camp, both of which Stidham laughed off.

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"Yeah, that was news to me," the recently-engaged quarterback said.

Stidham completed several long passes down the field, a nice slant to freshman receiver Matthew Hill, and scored a couple of touchdowns during the scrimmage, according to sources. The scrimmage was closed to the public and media.

“I thought he looked real natural," coach Gus Malzahn said. "He’s off to a good start. It feels different with him out there. It should."

Auburn quarterbacks threw three interceptions, but none were thrown by Stidham.

"With Jarrett throwing the ball and putting it in the place that he puts it, the sky is the limit for the offense," Davis said.