ATHENS, Ga. — Jacob Eason, the Georgia sophomore quarterback, is noticeably different than Jacob Eason, the Georgia freshman quarterback, in the eyes of wide receiver Terry Godwin.
“I would say probably his freshman year he was a little bit antsy and nervous and all that,” Godwin said. “I feel like he’s calmed down. He knows the playbook like the back of his hand. He tells me when I’m wrong, some of the receivers. That’s helpful. That’s the type of quarterback you want.”
Eason describes it as “a whole new world,” from a year ago when the much-fussed-about five-star recruit was in a three-player battle for the starting job just months after graduating from Lake Stevens High in Washington State. He won the gig in week two and started the final 12 games of an 8-5 season.
Now, freshman Jake Fromm is providing a competitive push to Eason, who has a chance this spring to grow into his role as the starting quarterback.
“I was still learning how to become a quarterback last year,” Eason said Thursday night. “And I still am. I still have a long ways to go, but there’s a comfort that comes along with it that gives you the ability to have the confidence to make plays, make checks and all that stuff.”
Coaches now are comfortable with Eason changing up plays at the line of scrimmage and he said he’s more comfortable in that role.
“Last year I was still trying to figure out which way to turn and get my hand off and all that stuff,” said Eason, who worked in a spread, shotgun offense at Lake Stevens High in Washington state. “This year there’s a lot more comfort in doing a lot of different things as a quarterback.”
Through the ups and downs of learning on the job, Eason completed 55.1 percent of his passes finished 90th in the nation in pass efficiency last season at 120.2. That ranked ninth among freshmen quarterbacks.
Greyson Lambert, who Eason last year supplanted as starter, ranked 38th nationally in 2015. Hutson Mason in 2014 ranked 10th.
Eason threw for nearly 300 more yards per game than they did during a season in which he passed for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdown and eight interceptions.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, he’s a freshman, this and that,” Eason said. “From a personal scale, I want to be the best I can be myself. There’s a lot of things I can look on: Did I spend enough time in the film room? Did I do all this, did I do all that? You look back on it. That’s what you do going forward.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart likes what he’s seen from Eason so far this spring but wants to see more.
“He’s got a long way to go but he’s come along way because he understands the protections now, which last year there were times that he did and times that he didn’t,” Smart said. “There was a lot on his plate. To manage that offense is challenging coming straight in from high school. He’s in a better place. He’s more confident. He’s throwing the ball good. The wideouts are catching it. I think we’ve still got a ways to go at wideout to get where we need to go, but Jacob helps those guys out, puts the ball in tight spots.”
Fromm, the U.S. Army All-American quarterback from Houston County, is the early enrollee on the scene this year at quarterback for Georgia. Eason said “having that guy that’s pushing you in the butt,” is hard to ignore.
“He’s a smart dude,” Eason said. “He learns fast. He’s a baller, too. He goes out there and makes plays. I know he’s not afraid of much. That’s a good thing for a quarterback. I’m excited for the next couple of years with him.”
The 6-foot-5 Eason is practicing this spring at around 242 pounds, about six more than at the end of last season. He also is sporting facial hair.
There are no real games to play until September but the talk is all positive.
“He’s out there making the calls, throwing the passes he’s supposed to complete and just overall throwing the ball great,” Godwin said.
Eason’s transition from high school star to SEC starting quarterback as a freshman wasn’t an easy one, but that experience figures to help Eason in season No. 2.
“I learned a lot from that and I’m glad I did,” Eason said, “because this year I’m going to be ready to go I feel like.”