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Liberty Bowl Preview: Breaking Down Georgia QB Jacob Eason

The Bulldogs have a young gunslinger that looks the part - will he give the TCU defense fits?

NCAA Football: Georgia vs Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think there is any question that Jacob Eason is going to be a star. The true freshman quarterback certainly looks the part - 6’5”, 235 pounds, with a rocket arm and all kinds of swagger. The son of former Notre Dame wide receiver Tony Eason, he was the top rated pocket passer in the class of 2016 and a five star recruit. With offers from every major Division I program, it was a bit surprising that he chose UGA - more so when you consider he is from the Pacific Northwest with no ties to the Bulldogs or the south in general. But the offensive system and opportunity to play early eventually won out, even with Mark Richt’s departure for Miami. He was hailed as a savior and the second coming of the last great Dawg signal caller, Highland Park native Matthew Stafford when he arrived on campus, and drew comparisons from the time he first showed interest in UGA. He wasn’t supposed to be thrown to the fire right out of the gate, but he took snaps away from incumbent Greyson Lambert in the season opening win against North Carolina and took hold of the starting job by the second game of the season.

After going 8-12 for 131 yards and his first career TD in that opening game, a 33-24 victory over the Tarheels, Eason guided the Dawgs to a slim win over Nicholls - though the two point margin of victory did not inspire confidence. He was much more human against the FCS foe, completing just 55% of his passes and throwing an interception to go along with TD number two of the season.

A week later, against conference opponent Missouri, Eason had the stuff of legend, throwing for over 300 yards for the first time in his career and passing for three scores including this game winner:

The realities of playing SEC defenses week in and week out would hit in full force over the next two games, as Eason struggled mightily in a loss to Ole Miss, falling short of the 150 yard mark and posting a QBR of 4.6. A week later, against the Volunteers, he was better - throwing for multiple touchdowns for the second time amassing 211 yards on 17 completions - though Georgia fell short of the win. He was downright awful against South Carolina, completing only five passes for 29 yards, though UGA was able to salvage a win.

UGA was upset by Vanderbilt 17-16 in their next game, and it was the first one that the offense was truly put in the freshman QB’s hands since the Missouri game. Eason dropped back 40 times, completing 27 passes for a career high 346 yards. He could only convert those numbers into a single passing TD as the Dawgs struggled in the red zone and were forced to kick three field goals in the loss. The Bulldogs suffered their second consecutive home loss against Florida - managing ten points against the SEC East’s best team as Eason completed less than 50% of his passes for the third time in the season. He bounced back with three straight wins - defeating Kentucky on the road and Auburn and Louisiana-Lafayette at home. The season ended with a somewhat surprising loss to in-state rival Georgia Tech between the hedges, as Eason finished his first 12 games with his first multi-pick affair of the year.

Overall, Jacob finished his first year under center with a 55% completion rate, throwing for 2,266 yards and 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He was sacked 18 times, which is partially responsible for his negative rushing total on the year (27 attempts, -52 yards: Jesse Ertz, he is not). In Georgia’s wins, he completed 103 of 212 attempts (48.6%) for 1,290 yards, nine touchdowns and four picks. In the five losses, he was 89 for 164 (54.3%) for 976 yards, five scores, and four INTs. While those numbers aren’t starkly different, it does seem that the key to upending the Dawgs is to slow down their powerful running attack and put the game in their young signal-caller’s hands.

Eason’s best asset is his unbelievable arm strength, and he will certainly look to take the top off of a TCU D that has been known to give up the deep ball. He also shows a mature calm under pressure, leading the Bulldogs back from the dead against Mizzou and Tennessee - though the Vols usurped him with a ridiculous Hail Mary to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat. The Frogs should be able to exploit his weaknesses though as well; consistent pressure from the front against UGA’s inconsistent offensive line as well as confusing the young QB out of a 4-2-5 defense he won’t have much experience against should ensure his accuracy issues are in full view.

Jacob Eason is going to be a star. But the key to a TCU victory will be in limiting the damage from the run game and putting the pressure on the young Georgia QB.