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Jacob Eason threw 16 touchdown passes in his freshman season.

Own the East: Georgia QB Jacob Eason

Editor’s Note: It may be time for the Georgia Bulldogs to take back the SEC East in 2017. We’ve featured the most important UGA players, coaches, fans and staff for the upcoming season in a 20-part video series, which you can binge-watch right here.

ATHENS — How much better can a quarterback get in one year? The Georgia Bulldogs are hoping theirs is a whole lot better.

Georgia needs significant improvement from sophomore Jacob Eason in 2017. He wasn’t awful as a 12-game starter in 2016, but he could be described as wildly inefficient and sometimes ineffective. He finished with 2,430 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions as the Bulldogs went 8-5.

The good news: Matthew Stafford played even worse as a freshman in 2006. Of course, he was considerably better in 2007 and markedly better in 2008. If Eason is on the same track, it will bode well for the Bulldogs this season.

Eason has two primary areas in which to improve: passing accuracy and offensive operation.

Eason completed just 55 percent of his passes and had an efficiency rating of 120.3 — worst among SEC regular starters. What’s worse is that low completion rate included many attempts on short to mid-range routes, often hitches and screens. When Eason did throw downfield, he often missed open receivers or threw into double coverage.

At least some of that was due to poor decision-making at the line of scrimmage. Eason appeared to be guessing about which receiver would be open and/or too often locked in on a single receiver. His touch on check-down passes sometimes was missing.

Improving the time it takes to interpret signals from the sideline and getting plays called in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage could buy Eason more time to survey defenses and make better decisions. Occasionally he’d get caught looking at the pass rush.

All of those deficiencies are common in a young quarterback trying to run a pro-style offense. It’s nothing that more practice and game experience can’t remedy.  The question is how Eason responds to his coaches’ challenge, and how he responds to competition from incoming freshman Jake Fromm.

There’s a reason everybody in the country wanted the 6-foot-6 Eason, a 5-star quarterback from Lake Stevens, Wash. The Bulldogs need Eason to show everybody what they saw in him.

Click here to see more of “Own the East,” our 2017 season preview of the Georgia Bulldogs in video form.