Georgia’s defense has the chance to be a dominant group. The rushing attack should perform better than it did a season ago. Special teams also figures to see significant improvement.
That leaves one final component to Georgia potentially competing for an SEC championship in 2017
Jacob Eason, the former high-prized five-star quarterback from Lake Stevens, Washington, is back for his second season as Georgia’s top signal-caller. And a lot of Georgia’s success on offense will fall on the young sophomore’s shoulders.
Eason will have more control at the line of scrimmage and should possess more command of the offense. As a freshman, Eason threw for 2,460 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While he endured some growing pains, there is still plenty of reason to think a sophomore leap could be in store.
And if Georgia gets a jump in production from Eason, this season could be a big one in Athens.
Coming out of the spring, here is a look at where the quarterbacks stand.
Post-spring depth chart
Quarterback: Eason, Jake Fromm, Sam Vaughn
Those on the way
Fromm was the lone scholarship quarterback in the freshman class of 2017, and he enrolled early. That gave the former Houston County standout valuable reps as a second-team quarterback during the spring.
The only other quarterback coming in is walk-on Stetson Bennett IV, a prospect from Pierce County who is better than the typical non-scholarship athlete. Bennett held offers from Georgia Southern and Middle Tennessee State, but chose to walk on to his dream school instead.
His size, 6-foot and 171 pounds, is likely what kept Power 5 Conference programs from offering him him. Bennett’s film shows a quarterback who has mobility and arm strength.
But Georgia is in a tough spot at the moment beyond the class of 2017. The Bulldogs would like to add two quarterbacks in the class of 2018 but have missed on all three of the top in-state recruits — Cartersville’s Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Harrison’s Justin Fields (Penn State) and Heard County’s Emory Jones (Ohio State).
All three also rank inside the 247Sports.com composite’s national top four.
Eason started in 12 of Georgia’s 13 games in 2016, earning the valuable experience necessary to develop at the college level.
There will be a lot of optimism heading into his sophomore campaign considering he kept mistakes at a minimum while learning Georgia’s offense on the fly.
What Eason has to improve, however, is his deep-ball accuracy. That’s an area that plagued him at times in 2016. In total, Eason finished his freshman season by completing 55.1 percent of his passes.
The Bulldogs will need that number to move closer to 60 percent if they are to achieve better balance on offense. Eason did prove to be a more accurate passer at home, however, converting 59.1 percent of his passes for completions at Sanford Stadium.
Fromm has been able to set an example in the team meeting room with his study habits and work ethic. Even so, it is clear this is Eason’s team.
Oftentimes, the most popular player on a roster is the backup quarterback. For whatever reason, there are those who think a legitimate quarterback controversy is brewing at the moment.
That is not the case, although that doesn’t mean Fromm should be written off. He’s a competitor who will approach the preseason like he wants to win the job. But Eason is still a heavy favorite to be Georgia’s starting quarterback in 2017. It will be a surprise, a shock even, if Eason isn’t.
With what looks to be an improved offensive line, Georgia’s run game should be able to set up the play-action pass better.
Since Eason isn’t a mobile quarterback, this should certainly benefit him. Until he becomes more comfortable throwing from under center, the play-action game will be needed to help buy some time on intermediate to deep throws. Eason is a much more comfortable passer out of the shotgun, which figures to be used even more in 2017.
All factors considered, Eason should be able to push 3,000 passing yards in year two at the helm.