UGA has commitments from two of the nation’s top-rated quarterbacks. 5-star Jacob Eason is having a prolific senior season, but junior Bailey Hockman is also rated No. 1 in his signing class by ESPN.
The 2-year starter at McEachern actually faces tougher competition on a weekly basis than Eason. How does he live up to the 4-star rating? Several blue-chip recruits who have faced him this year told the AJC’s DawgNation.com that Hockman is legit.
Peachtree Ridge was the only team to beat McEachern this season, but that didn’t sway the opinions of the team’s top recruits on Hockman.
- Chad Clay, a UGA commitment, saw a lot of potential in a future teammate. That’s even though his Lions beat McEachern by a 9-6 margin. “I thought Bailey is a great quarterback and has a lot of great weapons around him,” Clay said. “He has great arm strength and can fit the ball into a lot of tight places. You could tell it was the first time for their team being in a really tight game, but Bailey did a great job of keeping his team composed.”
- DeAngelo Gibbs — the nation’s No. 1 cornerback for 2017 — knows Hockman well. “He’s an amazing quarterback,” Gibbs said. “He will break things down on the board and will see things and talk to you. I had a talk with him when I was at Georgia and he was telling me a lot of things about coverages. I never realized how smart he was as a quarterback. He was teaching me things about the receiver position and from an offensive perspective. It was real cool.”
- Nigel Warrior, another 4-star safety at Peachtree Ridge, also saw he lived up to his ranking. “Everybody can get better but I think he is an amazing quarterback,” Warrior said. “He checks down and checks everything perfectly at the line. I think he is already a great quarterback and will be even better in college.”
Hockman committed to UGA in June. He’s already faced a lot of defenses this year that have dropped eight men into coverage. That’s allowed McEachern to average 8.9 yards per carry.
That’s thrown a loop into the passing game. Hockman has had to take deep shots to stretch the field vertically. He’s completing right at 50 percent of his throws, but those went for an impressive 17.5 yards per attempt through his first three games.
McEachern coach Kyle Hockman (his father) attributed some of Hockman’s early season struggles to him playing through a hip flexor injury. Hockman suffered that and still competed with that at Dawg Night. He also said last week’s game against Marietta was the first time he felt his quarterback was at 100 percent health.
McEachern has also endured a season-ending injury to 4-star junior Tyler Smith at receiver and had the growing pains associated with the loss of 120 catches from last season at receiver. The 6-foot-2 southpaw threw for 3,597 yards as a sophomore last season for 42 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
The Indians did welcome 4-star senior transfer Tyler Simmons into the program, but he’s part of a receiver group that does not yet have the same command of the offense as the guys Hockman threw to last season. The Indians also don’t try to throw short passes like screens. They’d rather run vertical routes.
“Bailey has handled it well,” Kyle Hockman said. “He asks me often why can’t we throw more high-percentage passes but I tell him why do we need to throw the ball out there when we can run it over there that far without having to throw the ball?”
McEachern grades Hockman not on completion percentage but on whether he makes the correct reads with his throws and if those throws were on target. Kyle Hockman said that his quarterback has hovered between 80 and 95 percent each game on those measures.
“He can complete a ball and still be docked because it was a bad read or if one of his receivers made an outstanding catch,” Hockman said. “He’d just done a great job of competing and handling the things that don’t go well much better this year. He lets very few things bother him for more than five seconds compared to last season. He just wants to be known as a winner and let all that other stuff take care of itself.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.