ATHENS, Ga. -- It doesn't matter how many stars a player had in high school or how high he was on the recruiting rankings. Becoming a quarterback in the SEC is no easy task, especially as a true freshman.
Nobody understands that better now than Jacob Eason.
"Obviously it was a huge jump going from Washington High School to the SEC. I look back at it and I’m glad I did it," Eason said following the Georgia Bulldogs' practice on Monday. "It was definitely a challenge, but a challenge worth doing."
There were times last season Eason showed off his arm that proved why he was a 5-star pro-style quarterback out of Lake Stevens, Washington, and other times when his lack of accuracy and decision making had some fretting if Georgia had made a mistake handing over the keys to the offense to a true freshman.
"Last year I was a younger guy and still learning the offense on the fly. I’m still trying to keep my head above the water," Eason said.
It wasn't all doom and gloom. Eason threw for 2,430 yards, the fourth most at Georgia by a freshman, and 16 touchdowns. He faced a good amount of pressure, and the running game struggled to even get touches during the season, putting all the pressure on the passing game.
An 8-5 record isn't up to the standards at Georgia. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney knows a good deal of responsibility for Georgia's struggles last season fall on him.
"I think after the conclusion of last season and not having production that we wanted to have, you do a lot of soul searching and a lot of visitations with a lot of people. What’s fresh and what’s new. I’m a big video guy," Chaney said.
Chaney watched other college teams during the offseason, and he even drew inspiration for his second year in charge of the offense from the Atlanta Falcons after they made a run to the Super Bowl last season by having the league's best offense.
But Chaney also knew he needed to change his approach with his players and other coaches. That was evident when Nick Chubb and Sony Michel setup a meeting last season where they told Chaney the run game wasn't getting featured.
"I tend to have a stronger personality and they got to understand they can say whatever they want, anytime they want. So me trying to back down and listen more. It’s not used much. I’m guilty as anybody in that. You’ve got to listen," he said.
The theme this preseason at Georgia is stability. Everyone feels more comfortable.
Eason's more comfortable with the offense and being a leader. The players are more comfortable with the coaching staff and Smart, who is only in his second season as a head coach.
"I’ve always had a lot of respect for the work Jim’s done," Smart said. "He’s been very versatile in his past. He was not able to do that last year. We’re not in a position to be that. That’s not who we were. We were in a transition. It was tough. I think he’ll be the first to admit we didn’t live up to the expectations we wanted last year."
The only thing shaking up the newfound consistency is the new freshman in the quarterback room, Jake Fromm. The 5-star pro-style quarterback from Houston County is providing more competition for Eason.
Smart has already named Eason his starter for the season, but Eason said there's always competition.
"Everyday’s a competition. The fuller the QB room, the better because you’ve got guys bouncing ideas off each other, every rep you’re looking at a different thing. Jake’s a brilliant, smart kid. It’s good to have a guy like that in the room," Eason said. "I look forward to it every day."
Conversely, Brice Ramsey is back for his senior season. While he's likely the third string, he's helping Eason develop, much like Greyson Lambert unselfishly did last season.
"He’s been in those big time games and seen what’s going on, so it’s cool to have a guy like that back and a friend in the room," Eason said.
Time and time again, Eason says having "a year under my belt" will make a difference in various situations. The work he put in the offseason has him confident year two will be better.
"I’m comfortable where I’m at right now."