When Jacob Eason finally agreed to play football at the University of Georgia, there was euphoria erupted “Bulldog Nation.”
The savior had arrived.
His entrance at the 13:13 mark of the second quarter in the season opener at the Georgia Dome was met with a deafening crowd roar. Eason went 8-of-13 that day for 131 yards and one touchdown. His 51 yard strike to Isaiah McKenzie in the fourth quarter was perfect. The Dawgs beat North Carolina 33-24; all was right with the world.
Then there was Sunday’s game at South Carolina. Eason was only 5-for-17 for 29 yards with one interception and one touchdown. It wasn’t pretty, but thankfully it was a game dominated by the UGA running attack.
“Jacob knows that he’s had his ups and downs this season,” said Dawgs’ head coach Kirby Smart. “He’s had his ‘wow’ moments and he’s had his bad moments. I think when you are starting a true freshman you know that you’re going to inherently go through some of those. You’ve got to encourage, you’ve got to teach, you’ve got to improve him as a player so that there’s progress there.”
So, looking at the entire run, the six games played this year, has he improved?
According to Smart, ” It’s not like you’re saying ‘Oh, this is what he’s not good at.’ This is what he’s got to improve on. I don’t think anybody on our team can’t improve, including me. We’re trying to improve everybody. It’s just he’s at a position that gets a lot more magnified. He’ll continue to do those things. The guy works really hard at his trade. He’s learning how to work hard because he’s never had to do some of the things he’s having to do now in order to be good. We’ll continue to work with him and he’ll do a good job.”
Here’s the thing about Eason: he’s doing as well a an 18-year-old kid can in the current situation. The Dawgs are good, not great. Eason is good, not great. We saw a glimpse of his greatness with :10 second left in the Tennessee game. His 47 yard missile to Riley Ridley was eye-popping. Had it not been for the knucklehead penalty that followed, the Dawgs, and Eason, would be 5-1 instead of 4-2.
Sometimes you have to question expectations. Did Dawgs fans expect Eason to single-handedly put the team in the SEC Championship game? Did fans think Eason, on arm strength alone, would win the Heisman?
Only each individual fan can answer that. However, when you look at the entire body of work, the UGA offense is getting better. Is it improving enough to win a championship? Probably not. In my biased opinion, we are just at the beginning of greatness for Eason and the Dawgs. In addition to a tremendous arm, he has plenty going for him. This is just year one.
“Composure is one of the best things he’s got going, ” said Smart. “The other thing that gives him an opportunity are the players around him. He doesn’t have a big offensive line but he’s got an experienced offensive line. There’s three guys up there who have played a lot of football, really four that played a lot of football. That gives him confidence. He’s got good backs around him. That allows him to have some confidence as well.”
As UGA fans watch the maturation of Eason during the 2016 season, they do so with confidence as well. Confidence that his supporting cast is going to improve each game, each season. That makes one think that things are going just fine for a teenager-turned-savior playing college football in the SEC 2,724 miles from home.