The only buzz bigger than the recruitment of Jacob Eason is the buzz about where the former five-star recruit will go to school in 2018.
The Georgia quarterback and Washington native told reporters before the Rose Bowl he hasn’t considered leaving the school but it is widely expected he will not be in Athens next season after being supplanted by Jake Fromm.
Should Eason depart, there will be several schools interested. And the favorite could be the Huskies.
“I still anticipate he will ask for his release. Win or lose,” Brandon Huffman, who is the national college football recruiting editor for 247 Sports, told The News Tribune. “I don’t anticipate Eason sticking around. He’s going to look at Pac-12 North schools. ... I would expect him to end up at a Pac-12 North school.”
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The ‘Eason-To-UW’ chatter has been building for some time.
UW lost out on Eason, who is from Lake Stevens, back in 2016. He signed with Georgia, a program he committed to back in 2014, and then won eight games as a true freshman, throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Eason began the year as Georgia’s starter but was hurt in the first quarter of the season opener. Fromm replaced him and led the Bulldogs to a 31-10 victory, and then guided Georgia to a 20-19 win at Notre Dame.
He’s thrown only four passes since then as Fromm, a freshman, has emerged as the team’s No. 1 option. Fromm has passed for 2,383 yards and 23 TDs while quarterbacking Georgia to the College Football Playoff title game.
The two coaches who recruited Eason — Mike Bobo and Mark Richt — are no longer at Georgia. Kirby Smart is the Bulldogs coach and has made a point of keeping the state’s best talents from leaving.
And Fromm is from Warner Robins, Georgia.
“When (Fromm) goes to Notre Dame and beats Notre Dame, I looked right there ... and looked at the upcoming games,” said KJR 950 AM analyst and former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen. “(Georgia) was playing Samford next and I thought this guy is going to get on a big winning streak and they’re not going back to Eason.”
If that weren’t enough, the Bulldogs have even more talent waiting in the wings.
Smart also signed five-star quarterback Justin Fields. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he’s the consensus No. 2 player in the nation.
Only Clemson signee Trevor Lawrence is considered a better prospect. Both Fields and Lawrence are from Georgia.
Mike Farrell, the national recruiting director at Rivals, said for Smart, or any coach of a certain state, they have to worry about appearances.
“If Georgia doesn’t go into the state of Washington again after this, it does not care,” he said. “If they screw over two local kids, they’re going to hear about it every day.
“That all plays into the paranoia ... (Eason’s) gotta think his future is not in Georgia.”
As Millen pointed out, Georgia prep players like Cam Newton (who wound up at Auburn after originally committing to Florida) and former Clemson star Deshaun Watson underlined why Smart or any coach who followed Richt needed to stay local.
They each left the state, won a national title and became first-round NFL quarterbacks.
“Georgia fans are extremely provincial,” said Millen, who played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1988 through 1990. “Every state has high school coaching conventions and in Georgia, the head coach of Georgia is the keynote speaker.
“(High school coaches) ask ‘Why did we lose Cam Newton?’ ‘Why did we lose Deshaun Watson?’ And they want to know when Georgia will go after their own.’”
Several schools could be in play for Eason. Huffman said Colorado State and Miami will not be among those options because Bobo is the head coach at CSU while Richt is at Miami.
Huffman said Smart, should he grant Eason’s release, will include a provision preventing him transferring to CSU, Miami or any other SEC school.
Huffman noted other schools like California or Oregon State could be in play. Cal coach Justin Wilcox and OSU coach Jonathan Smith are former Chris Petersen assistants with ties to the state of Washington.
That said, Huffman believes UW has the strongest odds of landing Eason.
Eason would have to sit out the 2018 season, per NCAA transfer rules. That would give him a year to learn and provide the Huskies flexibility after Jake Browning graduates.
UW signed four-star prospects in Jacob Sirmon and Colson Yankoff as part of its 2018 recruiting class.
“It would be huge for them,” Huffman said. “You would not have to immediately turn it over to Yankoff or Sirmon.”
Millen, a former UW quarterback, says Eason’s arm strength is among the best he’s ever seen. He recalled a play from Eason’s freshman year against Tennessee.
Eason, with 19 seconds left, quickly assessed the field and threw a 50-yard touchdown pass from the right hash to the left side of the field while looking off a cornerback and a safety.
It led to Millen saying, “I’ve looked at that throw 40 times.”
Millen also said Eason fits under Petersen’s ‘Our Kinda Guy’ model also known as “OKG.” The philosophy is designed to develop players who Petersen feels have high character.
Fromm, ahead of the Rose Bowl, told reporters he did not receive any negative feelings from Eason, now his backup. He said both he and Eason have developed a good friendship, according to USA Today.
USA Today reported Eason and Fromm are road roommates who do game preparation each night before bed.
“To me, there’s nothing more that could indicate a ‘OKG’ than the guy who gets his heart ripped out of his chest and finds it within him to support the guy who beat him out,” Millen said. “I’ll come to blows to defend that kid for having done that.”
Getting a transfer quarterback is a game of roulette.
Sometimes, it works. Oklahoma took in a Texas Tech transfer who became a Heisman winner in Baker Mayfield.
Other times, the moves don’t pan out. Florida thought it found a starter in Malik Zaire, only to watch the former Notre Dame passer struggle in 2017.
“The difference, should it happen, he’s not expected to win the job right away,” Huffman said. “Reason I think this works, if it does happen, you have a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.”
Huffman said the ability to learn from Petersen and Bush Hamdan, who will be UW’s offensive coordinator next season, for a year will help.
So does having previous starting experience in the SEC. And that he would be a redshirt junior.
Farrell took it a step further.
“Eason was thrown to the wolves and still won eight games,” he said. “If you’re Petersen and not interested, you’re crazy. I know you have two, four-star quarterbacks in the class. They’re guys you like.
“But when a former five-star who has shown he can win in tough scenarios comes around, you’re taking him.”
Ryan Clark: @ryan_s_clark