HOOVER, Ala. — Kirby Smart wasn’t embracing the suggestion posed to him Tuesday that a Georgia defense loaded with returning starters and a proven tandem at running back in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel gives quarterback Jacob Eason a “security blanket” for his second college season.
“I think when you play quarterback in the SEC, there’s no security blankets for that,” the Bulldogs coach said. “I think you can ask any quarterback who’s competed and played that you’ll go up against some of the most formidable defenses in the country.”
Eason became Georgia’s starter in the second week last season and never gave up the job during an 8-5 run.
He received the push that coaches wanted from freshman Jake Fromm this spring, but Smart had tiptoed around the fact that Eason was still the guy in his public comments.
That changed Tuesday when Smart spoke in the TV room during SEC Media Days in the Wynfrey Hotel after his appearance in the main media room.
Smart started off by saying he didn’t know if a decision was made for his starting quarterback, but then changed course saying what observers figured was the way things had shaped up.
“Jacob Eason is our starter coming into the season and Jake Fromm’s got to do something to beat him out,” Smart said. “It’s very similar to a lot of positions, you know? Malkom Parrish is the starting corner until (freshman) Ameer Speed or someone can come in and compete and beat him out. We’re excited about where things are with the quarterbacks. I know there are a lot of people that would trade to have the talent that we have in that room and that’s including Brice (Ramsey) coming back.”
Eason’s summer travels included attending the Manning Academy in Louisiana to work with Peyton and Eli Manning as well as some of the nation’s top college quarterbacks.
“Sometimes behavior is learned, and you learn how to behave like a big-time quarterback,” Smart said. “You learn how to study and you sit in those meetings.”
Eason came to Georgia as a big-time recruit from Washington state and performed like it on a big stage with late-game scoring drives against Missouri and Kentucky in road wins, but completed just 55.1 percent of his passes and ranked 11th in the SEC in passing efficiency.
Smart was asked Tuesday about a Georgia offense that averaged 24.5 points per game – 11th in the SEC.
“It starts, let’s be honest, with quarterback play,” Smart said. “We’ve got to complete with a higher completion percentage. We’ve got to finish drives in the red area.”
Smart says Eason has “grown tremendously,” and credits offensive coordinator Jim Chaney for doing “a great job with him in this offseason, making him realize his weaknesses and continue to work on those.”
Fromm, even if he is the No. 2 guy, has helped Eason get better.
“I think he’s made Jacob respect the game and understand that knowing the ins and outs of every play is really important,” Smart said. “Jake knows that and understands it, and it’s really important that he pushed Jacob this fall camp to be a better and more productive player.”