ATHENS — The narrative in many quarters may be that Jacob Eason has to come to the rescue of Georgia’s passing game. Given that, Kirby Smart conveyed a couple startling things after Saturday’s first spring scrimmage.
The passing game was “very much” better than the running game.
And Eason didn’t have much to do with it.
Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey, the two holdovers from last year, shared the first-team snaps about evenly. Eason, the five-star recruit, went mostly with the third team, while seeing some second-team work.
And while Smart had some criticisms of the passing game – “organzationally,” as he put it – he liked what he saw from the actual passing.
“We did have some big, explosive passes,” Smart said. “It’s not good on defense, but it’s good when you have a chance to do that on offense.”
It also wasn’t something said often last year, or at all, when Georgia had the 104th-ranked passing offense in the country. So even if it was just one spring scrimmage, it was a decent early sign.
Smart didn’t release stats. Lambert, the fifth-year senior who started all but one game last year, did about as “expected,” Smart said. So did Ramsey, though Smart reiterated that he wanted to see more out of the fourth-year junior in terms of leadership.
“I want Brice to manage the huddle a little better, be more efficient, get the call out, get to the line faster,” Smart said. “I think Greyson’s doing a nice job of managing the huddle right now, the call and executing the play. He’s gotta be a little more mobile in the pocket. He’s gotta be able to create a little bit more and get out of there and make some throws. They both led the offensive units down and scored at times.”
Then there was Eason, who Smart said had some good moments against the third-team defense. Even then, Smart indicated that Eason had some help: Receivers Riley Ridley and Shaquery Wilson made some big plays for that third-team offense.
But it’s still very early for Eason, who would be in his final semester of high school if he hadn’t enrolled early. This was, Smart pointed out, Eason’s first live situation in Sanford Stadium, even if it was just a scrimmage, so he was probably a little nervous.
“Right now, obviously the young man has a great arm talent. But sometimes arm talent can get you in trouble if you make poor decisions,” Smart said. “We’re trying to make sure he’s doing the right progression, the right check, throwing the ball to the right place. He’s had several times where he threw it to the right place where he made a hell of a play. You don’t want to take that out of the guy. You don’t want to over-coach the guy. And I think (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach (Jim) Chaney does a great job. I sit in some of those meetings and he tells him, ‘Hey this is not really where you’re supposed to do it, but you did a great job.’ So as he earns that, he’ll get a chance hopefully to move up and get a chance with the ones.”
The format for the scrimmage was a mixture. It started out as first-team offense vs. second team defense, then vice versa, and then situational work that matched the first-team offense against the first-team defense, and then the second-teamers. Eason went with the second-teamers in a third-down situational drill.
The running game was less efficient than Smart would have liked. Of course much of that had to do the lack of depth at tailback, with Nick Chubb (knee) and Brendan Douglas (wrist) both limited. Although stats weren’t announced, Smart said the plan was to get Sony Michel 8-10 carries and Tae Crowder 15-20 carries.
The heavy emphasis for Smart when it came to the offense was more on what one would expect to be rusty with a wholesale new coaching staff on that side of the ball.
“I thought that the effort was good, but I do not think we’re where we need to be organizationally,” Smart said, specifying getting in and out of the huddle and substitution errors. “It just shows that as coaches we’ve got to do a better job of getting off the field and letting the players play. Because a lot of the players couldn’t play on their own, couldn’t execute on their own, so we’ve gotta make it a little easier for them.”
G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.