UGA's questions "Eason" along

By Jake McMillian

Staff Writer

 

The college football offseason is always a hotbed for rumors and dramatic conversation. Discussions concerning coaching decisions, upcoming games, and player criticisms always seem to light up headlines, and, to be fair, these conversations can often make life without football a little less unbearable. However, such talk can often invoke passionate discord among fanatic audiences, and the University of Georgia is certainly not exempt.

Before I begin, I am obligated to tell you that I am a devout Alabama fan (Roll Tide), and though this information may invalidate my argument to many of you, hear me out.

UGA’s major source of questioning concerning the upcoming season resides in the quarterback position. The Dawgs have been blessed with elite recruiting in this area, having secured Jacob Eason (13th in the ESPN 300 for the class of 2016) and Jake Fromm (7th ranked QB in the class of 2017) over the past two seasons. Eason, who was once hailed as the next great quarterback to come out of Athens, has endured a lot of criticism after the Bulldogs’ underwhelming 2016 campaign. Fromm, Houston County’s superstar signal caller, has received a lot of love from UGA hopefuls. Some even dare to assert that Fromm should overtake his sophomore counterpart.

With these zealots, I respectfully disagree.

In my opinion, much of the harsh criticism that Eason has received from TV commentators this season (Yes, Gary Danielson, I am using my newfound freedom to finally vent my frustration with you) has been, well, rather harsh.

Although analysts constantly point to the splinters in his eye (55% completion percentage, 2430 passing yards, and a final QBR of 51.1), logical reasoning must consider a multitude of factors that help his case.

First of all, Eason started as a true freshman in the premier conference of college football. Even with today’s impatient hunger for instant success, such an enormous responsibility is understandable.

Also, Georgia as a whole- not its QB1 alone- struggled. The Ole Miss and Florida games alone could attest to struggles on both the offensive line and receiving corps (need I review the stats?).

I’m not here to hate on Georgia while ignoring an imperfect season at the quarterback position. In fact, I really like the Dawgs, and I’m definitely not ready to anoint Eason as the Messiah.

However, modern obsessions with inherent stardom at the quarterback position should not mandate for signal callers to take all of the blame. Remember, also, that Eason is returning this season with a year of good experience under his belt- including a bowl game victory- as the Bulldogs return an athletic, seasoned squad to Athens. Not to mention that Eason stands in front of two of the elite running backs in college football (and we all know that Nick Chubb, barring another injury, will be much healthier compared to last year).

What does Fromm have in his corner? A great career in high school football and a touted spring football performance. Granted, he did manage to pass for 277 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing zero interceptions, in his Bulldog debut. However, these did come against a faulty, backup secondary, while the spring game starter faced a 1st-team defense; Georgia’s rushing game was also deemphasized, to say the least. As for his high school career, we all know that the SEC is, as the saying goes, “a whole ‘nother ballgame,” and transitional success isn’t automatic.

Therefore, I think “The Northwest Gunslinger” simply has more to offer; fans should not write him off because of a football season that did not meet Everest-like expectations. There’s no doubt in my brash, immodest, teenage mind that he will be taking all snaps (knock on wood) this season in Athens.

Now for a wild card, which will really flare up some conversation.

Jake Fromm, though unproven, has enormous potential, and Dawgs fan would certainly hate to see him follow his predecessor and have but a single year of eligibility (assuming Eason stays all four years). A revival of the anti-climactic career of Hutson Mason is not the most attractive option. UGA will, in all likelihood, redshirt Fromm, allowing him a good two years of eligibility. However, a recent NCAA rule proposal has fans everywhere drooling at the mouth. This rule allows for players to receive a redshirt while still experiencing four games of action during the course of a season (I can only imagine the unholy fit that Ole Miss’ Shae Patterson is currently throwing). Meanwhile, Bulldog QB Brice Ramsey has decided to stay in Athens after considering transfer options, cementing a third scholarship quarterback to the roster.

Now for an ideal situation for Bulldog fans: Eason stays healthy (knock on wood yet again) and the NCAA dumps its antiquated redshirt policy for the new rule change. If Eason stays healthy, the Bulldogs can give Jake Fromm some much needed game time experience while still awarding him two years at the helm. Fromm could still remain comfortably in the backup role and step in if the situation presents itself.

So, Georgia fans, you will hear a lot of scuttlebutt (thank you, thesaurus.com) about the quarterback situation for the upcoming season. However, in that respect, I’d say that the Dawgs will be in great standing if the chips fall in the right place.

As my esteemed colleague, the illustrious and whimsical Dave Brown, would say, thank you for revisiting this teeny-tiny ink spot in your favorite community-based newspaper. Then again, it does sound better coming from his fingertips.

 

Jake McMillian, a rising senior at Gatewood Schools, is a frequent contributor to the sports pages of The Eatonton Messenger and has joined the EM staff for the summer. He may be reached at jacob@msgr.com.

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