ATHENS — Jacob Eason had a good practice on Tuesday, according to his coach. Eason was in a good mood, as he is every day, according to a Georgia teammate and classmate.
“I see him smiling every day,” fellow sophomore Julian Rochester said. “I mess with him every day. That’s my dog.”
But that’s not Georgia’s starting quarterback anymore, at least until Jake Fromm gets injured or struggles. It’s a remarkable change in a relatively short amount of time for the once-hyped recruit who started 12 games as a freshman and entered the season as the entrenched starter.
So how is Eason handling it?
“I think he’s doing a great job,” coach Kirby Smart said after practice Tuesday. “He’s very mature, he’s handling things the right way.”
Smart has never come out and proclaimed that Fromm is the new starter, and that may be due to Eason not quite being 100 percent, following his left knee injury. But Fromm’s play has made the point moot to many observers, so through no fault of his own Eason appears to have — at least temporarily — to take a No. 2 role.
“From what I see he’s consistent,” senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “He’s always been that guy. He’s fighting the good fight. He’s trying to get better. He’s doing everything he can, and I’m really proud of him and how he’s handled this.”
Eason, who has not been available for comment since the season began, entered the season hoping to build on a solid freshman campaign, when he started 12 games.
Instead, Eason sprained his knee in the season opener after throwing just 3 passes. He ended up missing the next three games, then returned to play in mop-up duty the past two games. He didn’t look too comfortable in either game, throwing incomplete on his lone pass attempt at Tennessee, and suffering a sack-fumble the first time he dropped back at Vanderbilt. (Eason did return to complete 3 passes on the next drive.)
“We talked to Jacob, and he’s working really hard to get himself to be back into position to be in position given the opportunity. And I think he continues to grow with that,” Smart said on Tuesday. “He had a really good practice today. The thing with him is he’s got to stay in tune to it, he’s got to battle and fight, and I think he’s done that.”
Fromm has been at the helm as Georgia has started 6-0, risen to No. 4 in the AP poll, and outscored opponents by an average of 25 points. While he hasn’t put up gaudy passing numbers — averaging 139.3 yards per game — he’s second in the SEC in pass efficiency rating, has thrown for 10 touchdowns and rushed for 2 more, and only has 2 interceptions.
Eason passed for 2,430 yards last year, with 16 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions.
“Last year I was a younger guy, I was still trying to learn the offense on the fly, I was trying to keep my head above the water in that aspect of it,” Eason said in early August. “This year I have more comfort in our schemes and our playbooks.”
If not for the injury, Eason may have produced the same results as Fromm, perhaps even better. That’s not knowable.
Georgia may still need Eason down the stretch, as it tries to stay unbeaten and chases an SEC championship and playoff berth.
But for now, all Eason can do is practice hard and wait.
“He’s got to practice just like everybody else has got to practice,” Rochester said. “[Jacob] smiles every day. Coach is going to put the best player out there every week. So I have faith in my coaches and that staff so they’re going to make the right decision each week. They’ve just got to compete for a spot.”