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Jacob Eason provided Georgia football a number of ‘What If’ moments
Jacob Eason’s college career officially came to an end yesterday. After first committing to Georgia in July of 2014, Eason announced he would be declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, forgoing his final season of eligibility.
In the announcement, Eason took the time to thank the University of Georgia in shaping his college years.
“Thank you to everyone at the University of Georgia who gave a kid from Washington a chance,” Eason said. “To all of my teammates, the bonds and memories we’ve created are something I will cherish forever. You inspire me to be my best.”
Related: Jacob Eason thanks UGA as he declares for 2020 NFL Draft
Eason came to Georgia with great promise and expectations as a 5-star quarterback. His final college game was for Washington, as the Huskies took down Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
As a recruit, Eason was thought of as a program changing recruit with an arm comparable to that of Matthew Stafford. And he did have some wow moments, such as his last-second touchdown passes against Missouri and Tennessee.
But Eason never got to fully blossom at Georgia. In the opening quarter of his sophomore season, Eason went down with a knee injury. In stepped then-freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. Eason never started another game at Georgia, as the Bulldogs rode Fromm all the way to the national championship game.
Shortly after the conclusion of his sophomore year, Eason announced that he would be transferring to Washington. He sat out the 2018 season before reemerging as the starter for the Huskies this season. He threw for more touchdown passes and bumped his completion percentage up nine points from his freshman season at Georgia.
But he was never the 5-star quarterback he was pegged to be. He’ll still likely be a top draft pick, but it’s clear he doesn’t reside in the same neighborhood as the likes of Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.
When thinking about Eason — and the past three seasons of Georgia football as well —it’s hard not to imagine what life might be like if he never goes down against Appalachian State. And it’s safe to say that the injury altered the careers of Fromm and Fields as well.
With Eason, maybe Georgia still goes on to have that same magical 2017 season. Maybe Eason is able to make some more plays than Fromm in the second half of the national championship game. Or he could’ve struggled on the road against Notre Dame and Auburn, thus leading to Fromm seeing the field anyway.
Say Eason never loses the job in 2017 and Georgia’s season ends the exact same way. He would almost definitely enter the 2018 season as the starter, even with Fromm and Fields with the team during the spring. Does Georgia still install plays for Fields to take plays away from Eason, who at that point would be in his third season as the starting quarterback? Probably, given he did it to Fromm in the SEC championship game that year.
From there, one can only help but wonder what would’ve happened at the Georgia quarterback position for the 2019 season if Eason had gone pro after his junior season at Georgia. Fromm and Fields likely have an intense competition that would go on well into the fall. Maybe a starter emerges, or maybe Smart rotates between the two, alienating both quarterbacks in the process.
Fields isn’t leading Ohio State to the College Football Playoff in that hypothetical. Eason might be starting this Sunday for the Denver Broncos. And perhaps the Georgia 2020 season isn’t as dependent on Fromm’s own 2020 NFL Draft decision.
Related: ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay strongly defends UGA QB Jake Fromm
Welcome to the Jacob Eason-verse.
In the most Bill Simmons voice possible, if Eason’s college career played out 10 times, it probably ends up being a better seven or eight times. In a few of those outcomes, maybe the Bulldogs end up having a better season than they did in either of the past three years.
Of course, the grass isn’t always greener. Eason did lose to Florida, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt as a starter. And his Washington team this year went 8-5. Not all of that falls at the feet of Eason but it’s worth mentioning when contemplating Eason’s larger picture.
Eason is still incredibly popular within the Georgia fan base, especially when contrasted with how Fields left the program. That was very evident on social media on Thursday.