The day after Dawg Night 2014 may have been the greatest non-signing day for UGA recruiting in the history of the football program.
The Bulldogs landed commitments from a pair of 5-star commitments for 2016, quarterback Jacob Eason of Lake Stevens, Wash., and Stephens County High School offensive lineman Ben Cleveland.
Several longtime observers of Dawg Night said that the 6-foot-5 Eason had the strongest arm on UGA’s practice fields since a kid from Texas named Stafford. But you didn’t have to be a scouting expert to reach that conclusion if you saw Eason on one play during the 7-on-7 drills:
The 6-foot-5 Eason, without even using proper throwing motion, simply flicked wrist and launched a beautiful 65-yard pass spiral down the field. Two of UGA’s current quarterbacks, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta, were among the crowd of observers and looked at each in amazement.
Eason is UGA’s most celebrated QB recruit since Matthew Stafford. Eason is ranked as the nation’s No. 14 overall prospect, while Stafford was No. 6 in 2006 (Aaron Murray was No. 18 in 2009).
Here are five questions with Tony Eason, Jacob’s father, who played college football at Notre Dame (and not to be confused with the former NFL quarterback by the same name):
Why UGA? “(Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo) came out twice to watch him throw and offered him early. We did some homework on Georgia before we ever came to Dawg Night. Offensively, we liked everything Bobo does to develop his quarterbacks, and getting them into the league. And Georgia’s pro-style system really fits Jacob. For his future in football and for what he wants to do, he just felt like that was a great fit. Bobo did a great job of letting Jacob know how much he liked him … Jacob felt most love from Georgia over anybody. So we weren’t coming in cold to UGA. When we got to Georgia, everybody was professional and there wasn’t anything negative to be found. And then when we got to the academic side of things, he wants to major in sports management and not everybody has that. That’s not a popular degree on the West Coast, to be honest with you. There’s only one other school that has it (out of that schools we were looking at). And that’s about it. There’s an advantage there. If he goes to summer school, he can wind up getting a double major. So there are a lot of advantages academically at Georgia, and it’s a top 20-25 school in the public sector. It’s a great mix of school, football and location. It’s beautiful down here. I had no idea it would be this green. It’s awesome.”
Why commit this early in the recruiting process? “We talked about it as a family. We all sat down. Nobody had any reservations about Georgia. He just felt so good about it. It felt like home to him. We talked about what was the advantage of waiting. There really was no advantage to waiting. Georgia is the place he wanted to be at, and he wants to be quarterback for the Bulldogs. What’s the purpose of dragging your feet and letting somebody else have that opportunity? Being Georgia’s quarterback is he job he wants. So hey, he took the opportunity.”
Lake Stevens High School is exactly 2,724 miles from UGA. How did distance factor into the decision? “For Jacob, it’s not going to be a big deal at all. Wherever he’s going to college, he’s going there on a year-round basis. He’ll go to summer school, and he may come home once or twice a year. So that’s not that big of an issue for him. The only issue will be for when Mom and Dad want to come to a game. We’re going to have to fly to a game. I look at it like when I grew up in Washington and I went to Notre Dame. I think going away from home helps you become independent and become a man. He was looking for the best fit for him and his future. Georgia hit a homerun in every category. What’s the difference between jumping in a plane for four or five hours and driving in a car for five and six hours? We didn’t really see much of a factor in that at all. We’ve got a direct flight from Seattle to Atlanta. And I can rent a car and get to Athens in about an hour. When I went to Notre Dame, I had to fly into Chicago, and a lot of times I had to switch planes in Denver. And then when you get to Chicago, you have to take a two-hour trip on the bus to South Bend. So Athens, even though it’s further away, is more convenient. I love the direct flights. And I didn’t want distance to hold him up. This is his future you’re talking about, and what’s going to give him the best chance of succeeding in life. I want him to have a great college experience. All across the board, we all felt like Georgia was the right fit for him.”
Recruiting is different than when you went to Notre Dame. Other colleges won’t give up until he signs in February 2016. Even though Jacob committed to UGA, will he still listen to other schools? “We talked about that. We’re not just throwing a commitment out here to lock something up. He’s all-in on Georgia. He wants to focus on high school now, and have a couple of good years of high school ball. When other college coaches call, it’s going to be really easy to say ‘I really appreciate you looking at me, but I’m committed to Georgia.’ That’s kind of the route I’m going. We didn’t want string anybody along, and play that type of game in recruiting. He wanted to Georgia, and he knew it. That’s why we pulled the trigger early.”
Who finished as runner-up to UGA? “He had like a top five or six. He had Washington, Florida State, Alabama, Stanford and Notre Dame in there. He had been to all those places. I know he’s very young, but he has seen all those schools and visited them. And he had done the tours. All the players he talked told him, ‘You’ll just know the right one when you visit all the schools because it will feel like home.’ And that’s the way it felt like at Georgia. He didn’t want to leave this weekend. He really didn’t want to leave from there.”
It looks like Jacob will try to be a leader for UGA’s 2016 class and recruit other top prospects? “I think you already saw that. Jacob and Big Ben were kind of a package deal. We came from Washington, and we came all the way down here to play in the SEC. Jacob was smart enough to make friends with Ben Cleveland, about the biggest left tackle you’re going to find. They roomed together at the Rivals camp in Baltimore, and have been texting back and forth. I think that’s a pretty unique situation with two of the top 10 guys in the country committing together. And they did that after dinner in the press box on Saturday. It was a great family type of atmosphere.”
A lot of people saw that play where Jacob flicked his wrist and the ball rocketed 65 yards. How strong is his arm? “Actually I chewed him out after that session. I was like ‘Dude, why didn’t you throw a completion?’ He said, ‘Dad, Bobo asked me to throw it deep. So I chucked it.’ So I said that was fine. I don’t know. He has a quick release for a big guy, and he can flick it 65 yards without blinking an eye. It’s very rare when you have to throw the ball that far down the field but I guess if you have to, you can. And the good thing is that the Bulldogs are going to find some specialty guys to run underneath those high bombs.”
How often will Jacob try to get back to UGA for unofficial visits? “His official visit is not until his senior year. During football season, I don’t know if we have a bye week, and if Georgia has a game that same week. We’ll see where Georgia goes for a bowl game. I’m sure he will want to come back for a camp. He had a lot of fun at Dawg Night, so maybe we’ll come out for Dawg Night again and he’ll sling it around. We’re going to keep in contact with the coaching staff and we’ll see how many times we’ll get connected this season.”
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