Question: What do you get when your sign the nation’s number one quarterback and pair it with a patchwork offensive line, a new offensive coordinator, and stable of talented, yet injured, running backs and a wide-receiver corps that was learning a new system but, at times, simply dropped some catchable passes?
A National Championship! An 8-5 record.
Jacob Eason really stepped into a nearly impossible situation from the very beginning in 2016. Expectations are always going to be impossibly high for any 5-Star recruit - especially at QB - to immediately excel, but first he had to supplant last year’s senior signal caller Greyson Lambert, which Eason did by the time Isaiah McKenzie was hauling in a 40-yard pass down the sideline in the opening against North Carolina. It was in this game where we saw the true potential of the kid from Washington state with the rocket arm. We also saw on several occasions what true freshman quarterbacks often do: Make true freshman mistakes.
From a statistical standpoint, Eason fared better than the last rocket armed QB he has been compared to in Matthew Stafford. Eason’s stats:
Jacob Eason 2016.csv
Stafford, in 2006, completed about 53% of his passes for 1749 yards, 7 touchdowns and thirteen interceptions (109 rating). He had a similar cadre of running back talent - if not healthier - and a typical Mark Richt era offensive line.
Georgia’s offense struggled mightily for most of the season, and scoring points became an issue as teams never really felt threatened by any semblance of a deep passing attack, and the corps of tight ends - which often had to block out of necessity - never got involved into the Jim Chaney game plan as hoped. Any blueprint before the season had to adjust on the fly and it is no wonder than at times Eason struggled, at least from the X’s and O’s point of view.
However, running for your life as the pocket consistently collapsed against the better defenses in the SEC (or, even Nichols State), would tend to shake any quarterback, not just a wide-eyed freshman.
Still, Eason had some brilliant moments and none were better than this:
(Sorry for the quality of the YouTube embed. The Google overlords are forcing us to watch cell-phone camera quality video of TV monitors now. And I hate Auburn.)
The deep ball, however, eluded Eason as he struggled with accuracy at times. How can this improve in 2017? Simple. Run The Damned Ball.
Of course it remains to be seen what Jacob Eason can do with a consistent offensive line, and the fact that some really young guys are going to have to play at that position should scare us all. But everyone, except for any true-freshman pressed into immediate service, are a year older, and year wiser and, most importantly, have over a year in a system that should be improved (dare I say, “vastly”) in 2017 as the receivers better understand their routes and roles, the tight ends can be cut loose provided we can block, and our running backs, all 23 of them, become option A in the 2nd iteration of Chaney’s offense that should open up everything else. If Nick Chubb is truly “back,” and Sony Michel’s proven talents can get just a little help from the big uglies, Jacob Eason, if he can find that “touch,” might just have a dream sophomore campaign. Simply put, running the ball effectively as the primary threat in 2017 will dictate everything else.
If Georgia can get a comfortable lead this coming Saturday, I fully expect to see Jake Fromm burn the red-shirt and get some playing time. Fromm doesn’t have the arm-strength of Eason (who does?), but he’s been on campus since January, played extensively in the Spring game, and is a single play away from having to step in and guide the team for either a lot or a little of the season. Redshirt? No way.
As of today he’s one play way from playing - Kirby Smart on Jake Fromm, August 2017
Fromm showed some genuine maturity in the spring game, guiding the team capably when he was in there and actually setting up a game-winning field goal drive. He’s smart and already has a grasp of the offense. His aforementioned “arm-strength” when compared with Eason isn’t entirely fair. The kid can put the ball where it needs to be.
Brice Ramsey elected to return to campus when he could have taken his diploma and played somewhere else. Ramsey is Georgia’s 3rd scholarship quarterback and his return to the team is a testament to his character. Depending on how this season goes, his opportunities could be limited. Conversely, he might have to step in at some point and take over. One thing for sure: He understands this system and is not without talent. His arm-strength has never been in doubt.
Stetson Bennett, who is a very talented kid out of Pierce County, rounds out the depth chart. If you don’t know who he is, Richard LaCounte certainly does...and he’s a fan. He turned down scholarship offer to play at Southern Miss, among other schools, to become a preferred walk-on for Kirby and Co.
Can Jacob Eason take that next step in the natural progression that should occur beginning on Saturday? I just don’t see how he cannot, given the talent surrounding him, unless he simply lacks the touch required to put the deep ball on a spot. The most critical part of his supporting cast, the offensive line, will have to gel in a hurry. If Eason can get the expected production from his running game and become truly comfortable in the pocket, some very special things could be in store.
A few more days, folks. Then, it’s on.