ATHENS – It would’ve been one thing if Jacob Eason’s best throws had just been zips over the middle, or deep balls to open receivers. His arm talent, no, that wasn’t what left the deepest impression.
It was the touch that Eason showed. A beautiful pass to fellow early enrollee Riley Ridley to one sideline. Another one to senior Reggie Davis on the next sideline.
It was also the composure. It was also the way Eason ran a play-action, setting up the Ridley pass. It was the tough throw over the middle.
When Eason entered the game for the first time, the fans cheered because of what they’d heard about him.
When they cheered his exit, it was over what they had just witnessed.
“I had no idea who they were cheering for when he ran out there. But then I recognized who was out there,” senior offensive tackle Greg Pyke said afterwards. “I guess that’s what happens when you’re such a highly-recruited guy, especially at quarterback position.
“But he was making a lot of good plays out there.”
Afterwards, it was put directly to head coach Kirby Smart: Based on what fans and media saw on Saturday – their only chance to see him this spring – it would be hard not to start Eason.
“Really? Why would people say that?” Smart said, smiling a bit coyly. “To me, he was 60-something percent, Brice (Ramsey) was 60-something percent, and Greyson (Lambert) had two drops and one bad decision, but he was right at 50 percent with a couple drops. So for people to say that, maybe they should go to coaching 101.
“Because I don’t see that being the case. What I see going into fall camp is three guys that have three different traits. And all three of them have got some growing to do.”
Smart will do his best over the next four months to downplay expectations. And Lambert may still be the favorite, even though he was the third-best quarterback on Saturday, albeit going against the first-team defense.
But Eason, on first viewing for many fans, did not live up to expectations. He surpassed them.
“I don’t think he knew there was 93,000 fans out there, because he sure didn’t act like he cared,” Smart said. “He executed the offense, went out and did what he had to do. He’s a very level-headed kid. So for him to do that, that was good.”
Indeed, if one of the worries for a freshman quarterback is how they’ll handle their first big-game environment, then Eason allayed some of those concerns.
Eason did hold the ball too long a few times, according to Smart, and the freshman didn’t seem used to some of the pass pressure.
He also went against the second team defense, as did Ramsey most of the time.
None of the quarterbacks were made available to the media after Saturday’s game. None have been available this spring, and it seems players are under instructions to reserve their comments.
But it’s also true that while the outside world saw a huge disparity on Saturday, the rest of the team may have seen something else in two other scrimmages and 12 practices, all of which were closed.
“All those (quarterbacks) they worked hard. For all 15 practices they competed, they all came out here today and competed,” tailback Sony Michel said. “I guess Jacob is what the fans wanted. But I think all three of those guys are out here to compete, and I think they’re all doing a good job.”
But one did a much better job on Saturday. And now there will be four months of talk about a freshman who many will see as the answer for Georgia’s offense.
“We’re all happy for him, of course,” tight end Jeb Blazevich said of the ovation Eason received. “Having him in that room, that promotes a lot of competition. I feel like that brings out the best in everybody. That’s what you need on a team.”
More on G-Day from DawgNation:
- Photos: 93K fill Sanford Stadium for G-Day game
- Coaches are much more optimistic about the kicking game
- G-Day marked the first victory for Kirby Smart
- One NFL star says Smart is taking the program to a ‘new level’
- The biggest highlight of the G-Day game wasn’t on the field
- Watch: Kirby Smart’s press conference after G-Day
- Black beats Red, but there were other winners on Saturday
- Eason was rousing in his debut
- A look back at G-Day’s biggest plays