ATHENS — Fans and media have gone a-Twitter, pun intended, when Mark Richt announced via a tweet that he had flown out to meet quarterback recruit Jacob Eason in Washington State over the weekend. One of Richt’s current players, himself a former five-star recruit, had a more subdued reaction.
“Honestly I saw it and I was like: Oh that’s cool,” said senior offensive tackle John Theus said, shrugging. “As players we don’t really talk about it that much. We’ve all been there to some degree or the other.”
Theus can indeed come close to sympathizing with Eason, considering the expectations that greeted him coming out of high school. As he prepares to finish up his Georgia career, Theus has a plea for fans eager for Eason to be the savior of the program.
“I wish that kid – I won’t be here – I wish him all the success in the world. I hope he’s the next best thing,” Theus said. “But if he struggles as a freshman I just ask freshman to remember he’s a freshman. Who knows what’ll happen, who knows if he comes in and starts, who knows if he doesn’t. It’s college football, it’s a complete other level. So to put that amount of pressure on a kid that early it’s not fair, but it’s part of it, we realize it. Don’t cut him down to begin with.”
Eason is a consensus five-star recruit, rated among the best players overall in the country. Given the shakiness of Georgia’s quarterbacks this season, there’s widespread belief Eason – who plans to enroll in January – will play as a freshman, if not start.
Theus hosted Eason on one of his weekend visits.
“I thought he was an awesome kid, a very nice kid, handled himself very well,” Theus said. “Part of the issue you run into these days is the hype you get. Is it fair, is it not, who knows, but it’s part of it. There’s a lot of hype going into it. I had a lot of hype going into my career here. Fans have a lot of expectations and you make a mistake the same people that building you up are the same people to cut you down. And to have an 18, 19-year-old kid, sometimes a 17-year-old kid, in that position it can be tough on him. It just depends on the background they come from. Sometimes it can hinder them, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Safety Dominick Sanders, a sophomore, will play with Eason, assuming all goes as planned. Sanders said he didn’t notice Richt’s tweet, but has met Eason and talked with him during a camp last summer.
“He’s a very nice kid. Very big kid. He’s an athlete,” Sanders said. “He’s gonna be a good one for us.”
That’s the expectation, and one of the reasons Richt flew out after Saturday’s game to surprise Eason.
When asked what he remembered about Richt’s recruitment of him, Theus cited Richt and then-offensive line coach Stacey Searals coming to one of his basketball team’s practices.
“I’m like, Who wants to watch me practice basketball?” Theus said.
But to this day Richt still mentions the pumpkin squares – cake patties about one-inch thick, containing cream cheese – that Theus’ mother served. Now she brings them up every year at Richt’s request.
“He does a good job of making you feel special, and he means it,” Theus said. “But yeah I don’t live in Washington so he didn’t take the red-eye to see me.”