Jacob Eason will visit UGA this weekend, take a good look at what’s being put in place by new coach Kirby Smart, and make his decision next week.
That’s where the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect is at after Smart flew cross country to Washington on Monday immediately after his introductory press conference. Eason shared those items and more on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with DawgNation.
His high school coach at Lake Stevens, Tom Tri, also told Dawgnation he feels Eason will make that decision by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. That comes after a visit to Washington on Wednesday and an official visit to UGA this weekend.
Perhaps the other most newsworthy element was that Eason is not expecting Smart to have an offensive coordinator in place for his official visit this weekend. It would be a bonus, but he’s not looking at it this way going in.
“He didn’t guarantee anything,” Eason said. “He is going to take the time — I think it is a good idea — to make sure he gets the right guy for Georgia and to really develop me and all that stuff.”
Eason took his first official visit to Florida last week and came away intrigued by the Gators. So it was important to Smart to have a good first meeting. The two had spoken over the phone, but the Monday night visit was their first face-to-face meeting.
“Really cool guy,” Eason said about Smart. “Really liked him. Always pretty professional and he was with Nick Saban at Alabama for forever. He’s got a good track record and resume and all of that stuff. So I’m excited.”
Did Smart make him feel better about his future at UGA? Eason didn’t consider things that way.
“I never really felt down about UGA,” Eason said. “I was just trying to figure out who they were going to hire and all that stuff and they got a good one. We’ll wait to see who he gets at (offensive coordinator) and we will go from there.”
The 5-star has been committed to UGA for 18 months. He’s had flocks of UGA fans visit him in Washington and has visualized himself in the red-and-black for almost all that time. The relationships he’s established with close friends like offensive lineman Ben Cleveland and other UGA commitments clearly means a lot to him.
Cleveland and Eason committed to UGA together in July of 2014.
“That’s a big pull for UGA,” Eason said. “I have been with those guys for so long and developed good relationships with them. Overall it is going to be my decision based on the best place for me to play football and be a student and better my career. But that’s a big benefit that UGA does have with the guys I have done there.”
The offensive coordinator choice sounds like another difference maker. This was probably the most revealing thing that Eason said on Tuesday.
“It is pretty important,” Eason said. “This is going to be the guy who is going to be working to get me to my full potential for the next four years. We are going to wait-and-see who they get and all that stuff before we make any big decisions. I’m sure he’s going to get a great guy in there so Georgia has got nothing to worry about.”
He chose his own answer about whether or not UGA and Florida are neck-and-neck right now heading into his UGA official visit this weekend.
“I would say I’m still committed to Georgia and they are both really good schools so it is going to be between my family where I go and where I decide,” Eason said.
He discussed his takeaways from the Florida trip.
“It was good,” Eason said. “Got down there and learned a lot from Coach (Jim McElwain) and (the offensive coordinator) and found a lot of cool insight on a potential place I am going to go to college. I got a lot of good things about that trip.”
Former UGA head coach Mark Richt had an offensive background. So does McElwain at Florida. Smart (even though he did coach running backs for one season at UGA) is a defensive-minded coach, but the 5-star quarterback dismissed that as a major factor.
“I’m not really concerned about that,” Eason said. “A head coach is a head coach. (Smart) is going to be looking over everything so obviously he is going to get the defense rolling which will get the offense the ball. It all depends on who he gets at (offensive coordinator) to be able to develop the offense and me.”
Which school does Eason feel like he can get a better chance to play at? UGA or Florida?
“I am going to go down there and do the best wherever I go and see how it goes,” Eason said.
The dead period begins on Dec. 13. That means no face-to-face contact with any head coaches for him. He will leave for the U.S. Army All-American game in early January and then report to either UGA for Florida after that.
That’s why his UGA or Florida decision should come next week.
“Should be around next week sometime because I am going to be out of here in January (to enroll early in college),” Eason said. “I’ll take my trip to Georgia, come back, talk with family and hopefully have a decision by then.”
DawgNation correspondent Nate Gettleman contributed to this report
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and 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.