ATHENS – Mark Richt flew across the country on Sunday to visit quarterback recruit Jacob Eason, a visit that was rare, a surprise – including to Eason – and very possibly a message on several fronts.
Even if Richt publicly claimed it wasn’t.
“We just had a good visit, just kinda hung out together,” Richt said. “The message was just enjoying each other’s company.”
It’s exceedingly rare for a head coach to make a recruiting visit during the season, unless it’s a bye week. Richt’s visit came a day after Georgia won at Auburn, and six days before the home finale with Georgia Southern.
Eason is a five-star recruit who lives in Lake Stevens, Wash. He has been committed to the Bulldogs for more than a year and expected to enroll at UGA in January.
The surprise visit drew a lot of interest; Richt’s standard Sunday teleconference – which he did from an airport – was dominated by questions about Eason. Richt didn’t seem to mind.
Asked why he felt it was important to go, Richt painted it as more one made out of convenience, as NCAA rules usually don’t allow him to make in-home visits right now but he can with Eason because the player has signed his financial aid papers. (That’s also why Richt was free to talk about Eason and tweet out a picture of their breakfast together.)
“It was unique in that way, really to start with,” Richt said. “And it worked out. It was an early game, we were near the airport, it was kind of a natural.”
Richt hopped on a plane Saturday on the way back from Auburn. He got into Seattle and was in bed before midnight Pacific time. (“I usually don’t sleep after a game anyway,” Richt said.) He drove to Eason’s house on Sunday morning, and while Jacob slept in Richt visited with his parents and sister.
“Then I went in there and woke him up and surprised him,” Richt said. “It was kinda fun that I snuck up on him.”
They grabbed a late breakfast – which Richt and Eason both tweeted a picture of – then Richt headed for the airport. He planned to watch Georgia Southern film on the way back to Georgia.
There have been questions swirling about Richt’s job security, as the Bulldogs (7-3) have failed to make the SEC championship game for a third straight season. The play of the offense, and at quarterback, has been a chief culprit.
The long trip west would appear to be a sign that Richt has no plans to depart on his own. And it could also serve as a message by Richt to fans that help is on the way.
It could also be an effort for Richt to shore up Eason’s commitment, though he and his father have consistently said that the quarterback is solid to Georgia – as long as Richt is still the coach.
Eason, assuming he enrolls as planned, is widely expected to play right away at Georgia, if not start. But Richt, asked about expectations for the quarterback, was careful not to provide any headlines.
“The only expectation that Jacob has is to come in and learn what to do and try to help the team win any way he can,” Richt said.