COLUMBIA, S.C. — He’s a freshman.
He’s five starts into his career.
He was playing in an SEC road game.
Are we going to have to do this every week?
The meltdown by some in the Twitterverse during Jacob Eason’s admittedly borderline horrendous outing Sunday at South Carolina — 5 for 17, 29 yards, one touchdown, one interception — was not surprising. Eason had one potential touchdown pass dropped and his lone interception came on a deflection following a nice breakup by a South Carolina defender. But he also sailed a number of throws to open receivers on short- to-medium-range passes.
Eason’s performance would have been a bigger deal if Georgia hadn’t rushed for 326 yards and won 28-14. But just as the freshman has proven his ability to come up in the clutch with late-game touchdown throws against Missouri and Tennessee, he also reaffirmed Sunday that he’s still green. Very green.
Smart suggested the occasional strong winds at Williams-Brice Stadium affected Eason’s throws but it didn’t impact South Carolina’s Perry Orth as much. He went 26 for 36 for 288 yards (one interception, zero touchdowns) despite being sacked five times. But he also said Eason struggled with “happy feet.”
Smart doesn’t allow freshman to speak to the media. So that means he has to field questions on what Eason was experiencing on the field.
Question: Was Eason getting frustrated?
Answer: “I felt like he was with his feet, his actions, but not his composure. He got a little happy feet at times. It’s a growing process.”
And then: “Look guys, when you go on the road in the SEC, I’ve been 18 years involved in this conference, it is tough, especially on a true freshman. He saw things out there that didn’t exist. He’s growing, and we have to coach him through that.”
Which is kind of the point. It has been hammered home since Eason signed his letter of intent and became the expected starter this season. That doesn’t excuse every mistake, every overthrow or bad read. But struggles are the norm for a freshman quarterback in a major conference like the SEC.
Smart was asked if he ever considered making a quarterback change during Sunday’s game, or should we consider Eason past that now?
“It’s always a consideration, but we didn’t consider it today,” he said.
Had they been losing, it might’ve been a different story. But when a team rushes for 326 yards against teams like South Carolina, it can get by with these growing pains.
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