What does Kirby Smart need to do his first day on the job? Maybe even his first calls before the press conference?
He will have a full plate. No doubt. Yet one of his thoughts will likely turn to the Pacific Northwest and the 425 area code. That’s where 5-star UGA commitment Jacob Eason lives. Locking down Eason might top that list. That’s how important 5-star quarterbacks are that serves as a potential centerpiece for the 2016 recruiting classes.
Lavelle Durant, Eason’s longtime quarterback trainer, already has the perfect script for Smart to convey to re-sell Eason on his long-standing commitment to UGA.
Step 1: “Nothing changes,” Durant said. “Coach Smart should say something like we’re coming in here with the same plans with a Pro-Style offense and the same goals for moving the football on offense. We all want wins and we all want to see great production out of the quarterback position.”
Step 2: “Remain committed to the guys that you are coming in with,” Durant said. “This is going to be a heck of a recruiting class. Some of the downfalls of the last Georgia season was maybe at quarterback. The last staff expected you to be the guy who came in and turned the program around and that will be my same expectations for you with my team. Nothing else changes.”
Step 3: “Continue to sell him on the big linemen UGA has coming in with this class,” Durant said. “Sell him on all those receivers they have coming in. I think they should just do their best to relax him and convince him nothing changes. Kirby Smart’s style of play and Mark Richt’s style of offensive football are not total opposites.”
If these things are conveyed to Eason, is the relationship restored?
“First of all, I don’t think Jacob is away from Georgia,” Durant said. “He’s still committed to Georgia. It is still definitely an option in his mind. Just keep him comfortable with him being there. That’s what Kirby Smart needs to say.”
Would it hurt UGA if Smart didn’t assume full control of the team until Alabama’s run at a national title ends? That’s not the case according to another member of the Eason camp. Eason values loyalty and watching Smart show unflinching loyalty to his current team at Alabama would actually impress the nation’s No. 2 quarterback. .
Durant compared Eason’s Florida visit with a divorce. He summed up the current split between his interest in playing for Mark Richt and his long-standing wish to wear the red and black for UGA.
“Georgia fans should not panic,” Durant said. “He’s just trying to protect himself. He’s trying to find a home away from home. His home away from home is Athens right now, but one of his parents has split things up out of that home. He’s just trying now to figure out what he can do to get comfortable again.”
Durant later described Eason’s commitment as more than an attachment to Richt. He sees it also as a commitment to play with UGA’s current commitments plus a few others.
“I agree 100 percent with that,” Durant said. “If you went to The Opening you saw all these guys all walking around and talking to one another. You see them talking to one another. The Georgia guys. You see them interact with one another on social media. I agree with that fully. They are definitely committed to one another as much as any school. I know that Skinny (Eason) and Ben Cleveland have grown close to one another tremendously through their recruiting. They are committed to playing with one another as much as for any coach or at one school. I agree with that thinking fully. That’s actually the way they all feel about this.”
That means DawgNation should watch the visits. Watch where Eason goes. Then wait to see if any other UGA commits end up taking visits to that same school. That will be the time to worry.
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.