Mailbag: Is there reason for Georgia fans to be skeptical of Jacob Eason?

UGA football practice 2017
Jacob Eason's leash should be long this year, says this beat writer.

Welcome back to the DawgNation Mailbag, where each week we invite readers to pick our brain (stop laughing) about Georgia football, UGA athletics or whatever springs to mind. This week, subjects include the parking-scooter story, how many members of the 2016 signing class will play this year, what to make of the first scrimmage and more. But first, we open with a Jacob Eason query:

Eason’s progress is one of the question marks this coming season. There’s been lots of comparisons to Matthew Stafford which is understandable. Stafford was good at Georgia but never won us anything.  I’ve seen lots of confidence eggs being put in Eason’ s basket on social media by people drinking the perpetual UGA is gonna win it all Kool-aid.  I love Georgia and hope they win it all, but I’m not drinking it — we’ve just crapped the bed too many times over the past 10 years.  So … If Eason doesn’t get it done on the field, how many losses do you think Kirby Smart will swallow before making a change? – Mike in Athens

Well, we’re getting way onto the Hypothetical Train here. My feeling, before it was made official, was Eason would start every game this season, barring injury. My expectation is for at least modest improvement this year, and that Smart and his staff will be loathe to turn over the reins once again to a true freshman.

But what if  Eason struggles and Georgia starts losing? Then it will depend on the confidence they have in Jake Fromm … or Brice Ramsey. (It’s starting to look to me that Fromm will not redshirt, as he continues to get the bulk of the second-team snaps.) My sense is Eason won’t have a never-ending leash. But I can’t sit here and put a loss number on it. The eye test will be more accurate. And sometimes you can send a message by benching someone briefly.

That said, I think Eason starts from beginning to end. The only question is whether he’s an OK quarterback and makes modest improvement, or whether he vaults into first-team All-SEC territory. He has the potential to do that.

The keys for Eason will be consistency and accuracy. Are there reasons to worry that he’ll not see open receivers, that he might lock in too much on his main target, or other mistakes that cropped up last year? Eason’s skill set is established. The intangibles — the in-game intangibles, when he’s on the field leading the offense, and when he’s adjusting to the play at hand — are what to watch this year.

Parking has sucked on the UGA campus as long as I can remember.  In fact, as a freshman in the early 80s, I did a term paper/project about the parking problem on campus.  As for the football players (or the other athletes), why doesn’t the athletic association build a parking deck on top of the parking lot just beyond the left field wall of Foley Field?  It seems the right size, and it would be a short walk to the Butts-Mehre building.  And, if they’re thinking ahead a little, they could make it more than two or three stories high.  I suggest 5-6 stories high.  Didn’t the university do this same idea in the Myers parking lot?

Keep up the good work, – George Armstrong

Thanks George. The short answer to your question is a parking deck there could be negative for the aesthetics for Foley Field, though perhaps there’s a creative way around that. Kolton Houston did suggest – and I didn’t have room for this in the story – that player parking could be in that lot beyond Foley Field. Houston and others have noticed the lot isn’t packed in the afternoon, when they need it.

Overall, the parking story has elicited mixed responses. Some people think it’s whiny. That players having to deal with an everyday problem is no big deal. I understand the sentiment.

But the story was trying to convey a situation that not a lot of people are aware of, and that, believe me, is discussed a lot among players, coaches and staff. I’m sure Kirby Smart would prefer his players, particularly his starting quarterback and star tight end, didn’t ride around campus in a scooter. But they feel it’s their best option, as have many former players. It’s something athletes at some other schools don’t have to deal with, and Houston’s quote about being sure that another coach uses it against Georgia in recruiting was interesting.

Dawg fans are understandably excited to witness the highly rated recruiting class of 2017. However, UGA will need major contributions from members of the 2016 class if they are to win the SEC East.  Which redshirt freshmen and sophomores are best positioned to be major factors this fall?

Above average regards, – Allan Harvey 

And above average regards to you as well!

There are six returning starters or significant contributors from last year’s class: QB Jacob Eason, TE Isaac Nauta, DL Julian Rochester. WR Javon Wims, DL David Marshall, P Marshall Long. There are five more who played a decent amount: WR Riley Ridley, RB Brian Herrien, DT Michail Carter, TE Charlie Woerner, DT Tyler Clark.

This year, look for increased playing time for RG Solomon Kindley (who will start), WR Mecole Hardman, OT Ben Cleveland, DE Chauncey Manac, CB Tyrique McGhee, WR Tyler Simmons.

I see seven definite starters/significant contributors (Eason, Nauta, Rochester, Wims, Marshall, Ridley, Kindley), and six who will at least be on the two-deep (Carter, Clark, Hardman, Cleveland, Manac, McGhee). That doesn’t count Herrien, Elijah Holyfield, Woerner and Simmons, who could also emerge in bigger roles.

Tyrique McGhee (26) is among the Class of 2016 members who Kirby Smart will count on this year. (FILE PHOTO/JOSH JONES)

Reports of defense looking great beg the question: How much of that is due to potential offensive line issues? Second question: What area concerns you most for the team? – Parrish Walton

Second question first: Let’s not trip ourselves trying to be creative. It’s still the O-line. Until further notice, that remains the major deal.

It’s always hard to tell when it’s a team playing itself. If Clemson’s defense was struggling in preseason scrimmage last year, was it because it wasn’t going to be good, or because it was going against perhaps the best offense in the country? So Georgia’s defense apparently did well in the first scrimmage. Well, you’d figure it would, considering everybody it returns, so does that mean anybody should be worried about Georgia’s offense?

Those looking for a silver lining should remember: Georgia’s O-line didn’t have its best player, Isaiah Wynn, and while we didn’t get stats, I have a hard time believing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel carried it the way they normally would. My sense is the coaches put Eason in a lot of challenging situations, trying to prepare him for the season. So take that all together and maybe no one should be worried.

But take that all in, look at the other side of the field, and do you then worry whether Georgia’s defense should be worried when it faces a team not holding anything back?

We can write each other in knots talking about this. My bottom line, and it’s a boring one, is the needle hasn’t moved yet: We’re still wondering what kind of improvement to see from Georgia’s offense, and if the defense will go from good to dominant.

Sorry for the boring answer. Let’s try better!

With the success of transfers under coach Kirby, can we expect that to be a part of his modus operandi or just happenstance based on current circumstances? – Tfk Fanboy, via DawgNation Forum

OK, sorry, turns out I have to straddle the fence again. Wait for it .. wait for it …

It’s probably a little of both. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Smart and his staff, it’s they’re never going to rest when it comes to roster management. The fact they found a junior college transfer in California a week before practice began, and he could be the punt returner, well that says everything.

Circumstance is part of it. They not only felt they needed a dynamic return man, but they wanted candidates for kicker and punter. The same way they felt they needed to plug holes last year so they found Maurice Smith and Tyler Catalina.

This was happening, it should be pointed out, prior to Smart’s arrival. Jake Ganus and Greyson Lambert parachuted in for the 2015 season and were full-time starters. Those were holes that needed to be plugged after apparent recruiting misses.

I’m sure that Smart’s hope is that with good evaluation and recruiting every year, the need for plugging holes will go down. But he’s also showing they’re not going to stop looking. The mantra is recruit well this year, then try to recruit over those guys the next year. And it sounds like that recruiting will be year-round.

REQUISITE BASKETBALL ENTRY

Is this year’s Georgia basketball team the best Mark Fox has had on paper? Arguably best frontcourt in SEC with Yante Maten, Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds. – Steve Shockley

Arguably the best frontcourt, sure, and you’ll get arguments from Kentucky, Texas A&M and others. But yes, Georgia will ultimately go only as far as its backcourt goes: Does Tyree Crump become the consistent, knock-down outside threat this team needs? Does the combination of Crump and Turtle Jackson provide solid leadership and ball-handling at the point? How much of an impact does Jordan Harris make as a sophomore, and Juwan Parker as what seems like a ninth-year senior?

On paper, it might be the best team Fox has had. But they have plenty of questions, especially with outside shooting.

STADIUM QUESTIONS

With the new west end zone project being completed for 2018 (where recruits will also sit), what will they do with the space behind the East end zone where they’ve put temporary seats for recruits the last few years?  Any changes to that area this year?  Thanks for your great articles and insight. – Brent Jarnicki, Cincinnati, OH 

Thanks Brent. I’m printing your question just so I can publish the compliment. My mom likes seeing them.

The official word from UGA on this: There will be no change this year to the east end, so presumably recruits will be using it. (After all, the recruiting area is still being built.) As for future years, UGA spokesman Claude Felton that is “still under review.”

Seth, many UGA fans have complained about the Sanford Stadium music being antiquated with songs like Journey sing-a-longs, “In the Air Tonight” and “Teenage Wasteland”. Do you suspect any changes to modernize the gameday music to meet the desires of the students and players? – Eason4Heisman, via DawgNation Forum

(While you’re using a handle, I’m guessing you’re not the same person who asked the first question.)

Anyway, I’ve heard no buzz either way about the gameday music. Usually, the No. 1 aim before games is recruits. Then the game starts and it becomes about atmosphere. Or at least what they feel should be atmosphere. I doubt “Teenage Wasteland” is going anywhere, that’s become tradition. I actually don’t remember hearing “In the Air Tonight” during warm-ups last year. (I once wrote an entire story about that, so maybe I jinxed it.)

As always, I favor as much New Edition and Garth Brooks, which offers variety. Yes, it’s very old, early-1990s variety. But it’s variety.

With the recruiting attempt to keep home grown talent in state, will Dreamland be using locally sourced meat for their stadium menu items? – Russell Suave

Pay the man, Shirley, as Norman Chad would say.

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