GA News: OnlineAthens - Bulldogs keep the faith with freshman QB Jacob Eason through 'ups and

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From OnlineAthens.com
October 11th, 2016 02:22 PM

With Georgia’s run game playing at peak performance heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Vanderbilt, coach Kirby Smart was peppered Tuesday with questions pertaining to quarterback Jacob Eason who the Bulldogs would love to see get back on track.
The 28-14 win at South Carolina Sunday came despite the freshman looking every bit the rookie against the Gamecocks.
“I have a lot of confidence in him, he’s our quarterback,” running back Sony Michel said. “I have faith that he’ll get the job done. Yes, he made mistakes and we all make mistakes in the game, but he never really dwelled on the mistakes. He moved forward and kept fighting for our team. …I think he did good enough for us to win the game.”
After Eason went 5-of-17 for 29 yards with a touchdown and interception Sunday, the Lake Stevens Wash. product is completing 51.2 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions and 1,020 passing yards. That completion percentage is not far away from where Matthew Stafford was in his total freshman season numbers for Georgia in 2006--52.7 percent--with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Breaking down the numbers in their first five starts, Stafford completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 831 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Eason has completed 50.0 percent of his passes for 889 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
"He's going through the growing pains of being a major college quarterback.”
Those words didn’t come from Smart but from Mark Richt on Stafford during the 2006 season.
“One play he'll look like a million dollars and the next play he'll have a bust,” Richt said then. “Not many times are you having a true freshmen maturing in front of everybody's eyes but that's what's happening right now."
Stafford started the third and fourth games of the season, but was replaced and didn’t gain the job full-time until the eighth game.
Eason took over as starter in week two and has gotten every quarterback rep since a week three game against Missouri. Backup Greyson Lambert meets extra with Eason each week to break down coverages and help him study film.
“Jacob knows that he’s had his ups and downs this season,” Smart said. “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.”
Smart said at halftime on the SEC Network broadcast that South Carolina’s defensive looks “confused” Eason at times.
On Tuesday he said “the biggest thing with Jacob is getting more reps and allowing him to develop. South Carolina didn’t do anything outside of what they always do. It was more a matter of him not feeling comfortable with the protection, so he got a little rattled at times and started looking around. It wasn’t anything they did to confuse him. I think the best thing we can do is give him a better picture in practice of what he’s going to see in the game and try to simulate that, and throw and catch the ball more.”
Eason and Stafford drew natural comparisons.
Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in 2009, was rated as the No. 6 overall prospect by Rivals.com as a high school senior. Eason was No. 7.
Davis said he thinks Eason is playing well considering his age.
Eason won’t turn 19 until Nov. 17, five days after Georgia completes its SEC schedule against Auburn.
“You’re a young person far away, getting all this stuff thrown at you,” Davis, a Tallahassee, Fla., native said, remembering back to his freshman season. “I think he’s handled it very well.”
Smart called Eason a “very confident player” after Eason threw for 311 yards and fired a 20-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10 to lift Georgia to a 28-27 victory at Missouri on Sept. 17.
Even in that game Smart said Eason missed a couple of “layups” when Reggie Davis and Isaiah McKenzie got behind the secondary.
Against South Carolina, Eason struggled on some seemingly easy throws--a ball sailed on a pass five yards down field for Jayson Stanley and he overthrew Javon Wims later in the first quarter on another short route.
He was flushed out of the pocket and sidearmed an off target pass to Wims. Later, Wims couldn’t secure a second half pass that went in the air and was intercepted.
Eason threw a good ball deep to Isaiah McKenzie on a would-be touchdown that was dropped, but underthrew Davis on a deep ball and overthrew Terry Godwin at the 4-yard line on a play that could have been another score.
Davis said “it’s kind of frustrating” when the connection on Eason on deep balls haven’t quite clicked on some plays.
“I feel like we’re getting closer,” Davis said. “Just got to keep practicing. Repetition makes perfection. We’ll get it sooner or later.”
Smart says coaches talk to Eason--whose strengths are his arm talent and composure--each week about what areas they are looking to see him improve.
His play-action fakes. Detail in drops. “More exact” in his reads. Communication.
“All of those things have been a work in progress since he got here,” Smart said. “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.”


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