Jacob Eason was the top-ranked quarterback prospect in America two weeks ago. Now, he is a just a freshman early enrollee at UGA.
There was a pair of security guards who escorted Eason and his party around downtown Athens on his official visit. How many pictures were taken by UGA fans and students? Two sources told DawgNation.com the number had to be at least 300 before they finally cut it all off.
Eason arrived with all the hype in the world, but the big question now is how can he back it up. Hard work — as coaches everywhere point out — is undefeated. That’s the backbone of Eason’s football mindset upon his arrival at UGA last week.
“No doubt there are a lot of expectations on me at Georgia,” Eason told DawgNation.com. “I’m going to have to try to live up to all that. I’ll just have to do the very best I can with all that. Its pretty crazy to see as an 18-year-old to have that much attention. I just have to put it in the back of my mind. Focus on the football. Focus on bringing good things to the university. I’ll buy into what all the coaches are doing and let all that off-the-field stuff just sit to the side where it belongs.”
The hope is that the 5-star quarterback will do well, but consider the following stat lines. They are the freshman seasons for a quartet of UGA quarterbacks who have established a baseline of productivity for what elite passers do in their first season.
- Eric Zeier, 1991 159-of-286 attempts, 55.6 percent completion, 1,984 yards, 7 TDs 4 Ints
- David Greene, 2001 192-of-324, 59.3 percent completion rate, 2,789 yards, 17 TDs, 9 Ints
- Matt Stafford, 2006 135-of-256 attempts, 52.7 percent completion, 1,749 yards, 7 TDs, 13 Int
- Aaron Murray, 2010 209-of-342 attempts, 61.1 percent completion, 3,049 yards, 24 TDs, 8 Ints
Stafford and Zeier arrived with the same level of All-American hype as Eason. Both played as early enrollees. Murray was the nation’s No. 2 QB dual-threat QB, according to the 247sports Composite, coming from the prep ranks, but he redshirted his first year. Greene also redshirted his first year after coming in as “merely” a USA Today All-American honorable mention choice.
Eason was named the 2015 National Player of the Year by both the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Gatorade after he completed his senior year of high school football.
“Everyone will want to see me play and do good stuff,” Eason said. “But I have got to make sure I put in all the hard work expected of me and then a lot more. Which I am ready and prepared to do. I’ll buy into every bit of what the coaches are doing and saying. Weight room. All that stuff. Get the players to buy into me, too. I have to earn their trust, too.”
The nearly 6-foot-6 freshman also brought up the other quarterbacks at UGA. His comments reflected the right tones for a confident player who’s ready to both learn and to compete.
“Obviously, I want to compete with Greyson (Lambert) and Brice (Ramsey) but also learn from those guys, too,” Eason said. “They are going to be good mentors and good guys to compete with. I’m excited about all of that.”
The equalizer is a new offense being installed under recently-hired offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. All the quarterbacks at UGA will start fresh with that, but Eason said Lambert might have the edge in digesting that.
“Greyson has already picked up a couple of different offenses,” Eason said. “He’s probably going to be able to pick it up a little bit quicker than some of the guys, but it will be fun. I’m looking forward to learning everything I can and becoming a better football player.”
Hard work. Film work. Field work with the receivers on the team. That is Eason’s plan.
There’s one other thing to consider if Eason does play his first year. That’s the reality of sticking the ball in the belly of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as a first option. He’d see a lot of defenders in the box as he learns to win in the SEC.
Those four stellar UGA passers never had a 1,000-yard rusher in their backfields as freshmen. Eason, if he sees time this fall, will have two in Chubb and Michel. Chubb ran for 1,547 in 2014. Michel piled up 1,161 yards in 2015.
Garrison Hearst ran for 968 yards as a sophomore in 1991 with Zeier, but UGA’s four leading rushers across those four years averaged just 817 yards per campaign.
The timing could only be better if Eason had a couple of 5-star receivers in the huddle, too.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
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.